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George Pataki Ends His Presidential Bid

Former New York Gov. George Pataki waits to be introduced to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington earlier this month.
Susan Walsh
Former New York Gov. George Pataki waits to be introduced to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington earlier this month.

Updated at 9:45 p.m. ET

Former New York Gov. George Pataki ended his struggling presidential campaign Tuesday evening.

"While tonight is the end of my journey for the White House, as I suspend my campaign for president, I'm confident we can elect the right person — someone who can bring us together, and understands that politicians, including the president, must be the people's servant and not their master," Pataki said in a video.

The two minute ad was broadcast on NBC stations in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina during "Chicago Med" — something Pataki got for free thanks to equal time requirements after Donald Trump hosted "Saturday Night Live" last month.

Like several other Republicans who withdrew before Pataki, his exit speech sounded like a thinly-veiled swipe at the bombastic billionaire businessman who is still leading GOP polls with a month to go until the Iowa caucuses.

"If we're truly going to make America great again, we need to elect a president who will do three things: confront and defeat radical Islam, shrink the size and power of Washington and unite us again in our belief in this great country," Pataki continued, using Trump's ubiquitous slogan.

Since entering the race in May, the moderate Republican has struggled to gain traction in the crowded race. Pataki failed to make the main stage at any of the GOP debates, continually relegated to the undercard debates. In early states and nationally, he registered near zero in most polls.

In a primary where Republican voters are gravitating toward outspoken outsiders, Pataki positioned himself as a compromise-seeking moderate. He touted his national security credentials as governor of New York during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and emphasized he was able to win in the heavily Democratic state three times.

Pataki scolded fellow Republicans for questioning the safety of vaccinations for infants, as well as the validity of climate change. "It's...not appropriate to think that human activity – putting CO2 into the atmosphere – doesn't make the earth warmer, all things being equal," Pataki said during one undercard debate. "It does. It's uncontroverted."

The Republican hopeful also continued to support abortion rights during his White House bid.

Pataki was one of several candidates to try to gain momentum by taking a direct run at frontrunner Donald Trump. He tweeted that the New York businessman was "serially bankrupt," and said he would never vote for Trump. "He is unfit to be president," Pataki added.

Trump flicked Pataki away on the social media platform, responding that Pataki "did a terrible job as Governor of N.Y., and registers ZERO in the polls."

New Hampshire seemed like Pataki's last home — a nearby state with a famous independent streak. But his campaign never caught fire in the Granite State either, frustrating two of his top supporters, state Sen. John Reagan and former state Sen. David Currier, who confirmed to NPR earlier Tuesday evening that Pataki had called them and said he was withdrawing.

"He's just a hard working, not a flashy guy. He's a gentleman," said Reagan. "I'm sorry to see him go."

Both Reagan and Currier said they had already gotten calls from several campaigns soliciting their support. Currier said he had gotten a personal call from Ohio Gov. John Kasich along with calls from the campaigns of Donald Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

"The corpse isn't even cold yet. They didn't even give me a chance to digest anything," Currier lamented.

In the end, Pataki never gained any momentum, and even failed to make the ballot in key states like Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

With Pataki's withdrawal, a dozen GOP candidates remain in the race with just over a month to go until the Iowa caucuses on February 1, 2016. He is the fifth. Republican hopeful to end his campaign, following former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

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Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.

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