Updated at 5:05 p.m.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) announced today that he will not run for president. The decision comes as something of a surprise — the Associated Press reported just Sunday that Barbour could launch his campaign as early as this week. He had been making moves toward a campaign, including a recent visit to New Hampshire.
"A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else,” Barbour said in a statement. “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.”
Barbour had previously voiced concerns about the time commitment involved in running for president, and both his wife and son had expressed reservations about the campaign.
He was also struggling to get above the low single digits in polls, even in the south. His past career as a lobbyist, though he tried to present it as an advantage, was expected to dog Barbour on the trail. His stumbles in statements on civil rights raised questions about his readiness.
Yet Barbour was considered a viable candidate in part due to his reputation as a formidable fundraiser and campaign strategist. As a former Republican National Committee chairman as well as a former Republican Governors Association chairman, he has connections all over the country. Nick Ayers, who worked under Barbour at the RGA, joined Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty’s campaign in what was widely seen as a sign that Barbour either would not run or could not win.
"Nobody has done more than Haley to build the Republican Party over the last three decades, including last year, when I had the privilege to be his vice chairman at the Republican Governors Association,” said Pawlenty in a statement. “When Republicans defeat Barack Obama next year, it will be thanks to the solid party foundation Haley helped build.”
If Barbour throws his weight behind another candidate, he can direct many major donors and talented operatives to that campaign. (He is good friends with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is now considered more likely to run.) Barbour’s decision also frees up the top talent he has hired in early primary states, including New Hampshire’s Mike Dennehy, South Carolina’s Jim Dyke and Florida’s Sally Bradshaw.