Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is ending his nascent campaign for the presidency, his office announced Monday.
“A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else. 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 statement said.
Barbour, an experienced politician and former head of the Republican National Committee, will continue in his role as governor of Mississippi and policy chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Due to term limits, Barbour cannot run for governor again when his term expires at the end of the year.
Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who served as a campaign manager for Ronald Reagan, told NPR that Barbour was the best political strategist in the country.
“I think Haley would rather run a campaign than be a candidate, although he’s a great candidate. The key thing, obviously, is when you’ve been an operative,” Rollins told NPR, “can you step aside and be the candidate? Can you let someone else run your operation for you? So you know that’ll be a test for him.”
Barbour had been polling near the bottom of the pack of 2012 GOP hopefuls. His wife was apparently not excited about the prospect of a presidential run, either: Marsha Barbour told WLOX in Biloxi that the prospect of her husband running for president “horrified” her.
In a December Weekly Standard profile, Barbour was quoted praising the Citizens Council, a group formed in Mississippi to oppose school desegregation after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Barbour retracted his support for the Citizens Council after the comments drew criticism.
The only major Republican candidates to form exploratory committees thus far are former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.