Former New York Gov. George Pataki dropped out of the GOP race for president on Tuesday night, making his official announcement on local TV stations in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Word had already leaked out, with Boston Globe reporter James Pindell tweeting a "scoop" earlier in the day that Pataki was calling New Hampshire supporters to tell them he was dropping out.
Later, Pataki himself tweeted that a "special message" would be airing on NBC affiliates in the three states during Tuesday's episode of "Chicago Med."
In a two-minute message, the former governor invoked front-runner Donald Trump's signature phrase, saying, "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 has been a sharp critic of Trump, but his campaign never caught fire. He is in last place in the current Real Clear Politics
he used the equal time rule to make the announcement on NBC after Trump hosted "Saturday Night Live" last fall.
"I'm confident we can elect the right person," Pataki said in the ad, "someone who will bring us together and who understands that politicians, including the president, must be the people's servant, and not their master.
Pataki's former rivals were mostly gracious, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz offering a tribute on Facebook.
"I’m grateful for Governor George Pataki’s many years of dedication to our nation and to the state of New York — particularly while serving as Governor on September 11th," Cruz wrote. "He brought experience and knowledge to the race for the Republican nomination, and as a result, helped prepare our eventual nominee to win in November and take back the White House."
Trump, however, hit Pataki over his near-zero showing in the polls as he announced Pataki's exit at a Council Bluffs, Iowa campaign rally.
"Somebody else dropped out, but there's not much to split up because he was at zero," Trump said, noting that usually when a candidate drops out he tries to figure out where his supporters will move to. "When they drop out at zero you just go on."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich also thanked Pataki for his service.
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