Republican Haley Barbour announced Monday he will not run for president in 2012, saying he does not have enough "fire in the belly," and will instead finish his term as Mississippi governor.
"I will not be a candidate for president next year," he said. "This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided."
Mr. Barbour, former chairman of the national Republican Party, indicated he did not have the energy to commit to the White House for the next decade.
"A candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," he said. "His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required."
The most recent Gallup Poll earlier this month gave Mr. Barbour just 2 percent support among GOP voters in the crowded field of potential Republican candidates seeking to take on President Obama next year.
Mr. Barbour, widely credited with helping engineer the GOP takeover of Congress in the watershed 1994 elections, was elected governor of Mississippi in 2003, and won re-election in 2007. His term ends after this year.
"This decision means I will continue my job as governor of Mississippi, my role in the Republican Governors Association and my efforts to elect a new Republican president in 2012, as the stakes for the nation require that effort to be successful."
Mr. Barbour's decision to pull out shocked some political insiders, who expected Mr. Barbour to announce a decision to run by the end of the month. He already had visited early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — which was seen as a sign that he was preparing to run.
But many analysts say it is a good decision because he probably would not have won the GOP nomination or been able to compete with Mr. Obama in the general election.
Mr. Barbour's decision could be an indication that either former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has decided to run. Speculation has it that Mr. Barbour sought Mr. Huckabee's endorsement, because it would be difficult for two Southerners to run. He also has said he didn't want to run against Mr. Daniels.
Mr. Huckabee would be considered a top candidate. In 2008, the former pastor who gained support from the religious right, came out of nowhere to win the Republican primary in Iowa. He eventually lost the GOP nomination to Arizona Sen. John McCain, and Mr. Huckabee later took a job as a host for a Fox News Channel show on weekends.
Mr. Barbour suffered a hiccup last month after his spokesman, Dan Turner, resigned following an insensitive joke he made about the tsunami crisis in Japan.
Mr. Barbour previously worked on campaigns for former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He also served as a political aide in the Reagan administration.
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