Haley Barbour made his decision at the end of April like he always promised to. It just wasn't what most people expected.
He announced this afternoon that he won't be running for president.
"I will not be a candidate for president next year. 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.
Hundreds of people have encouraged me to run and offered both to give and raise money for a presidential campaign. Many volunteers have organized events in support of my pursuing the race. Some have dedicated virtually full time to setting up preliminary organizations in critical, early states and to helping plan what has been several months of intensive activity.
I greatly appreciate each and every one of them and all their outstanding efforts. If I have disappointed any of them in this decision, I sincerely regret it.
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.
This decision means I will continue my job as Governor 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."
A few things.
1. A lot of people tended to treat him as a serious candidate just because they knew he was a serious person, strategist, and smart guy.
But his lobbying past would've really hurt, even though he tried turning it into a strength by playing up the possibility of being a "lobbyist-in-chief". Actually, that was probably the smartest way of dressing it up, but it still looked like Hedo Turkoglu.
2. Barbour and Mitch Daniels are enormously close. One month ago, the CW was that Barbour would run and Mitch wouldn't.
But now, the path is open for Daniels to fight for the nomination without having to fight his friend. So, "frenemies" is out!
3. Look at Barbour questioning the fire in his belly. Believable? Yes, no?
Interestingly enough, he had said a few things the past month that indicated he was thinking a lot about the strain of a run, and his wife said the prospect of it horrified her.
Having said that, he probably was also looking at the possibility of a win, which seemed remote. Huckabee, for example, fared better than Barbour against Barack Obama in Mississippi -- a place where name ID would be eliminated in current polling.
Then there's the fact he just wasn't connecting with southern voters.
4. This means John Kasich's endorsement is up-for-grabs.
5. Most interesting question going forward. How does Barbour reposition himself, ideologically?
He'd jumped back and forth a number of times on Mitch Daniels' call for a truce, and people who've been following him tend to think that, while socially-conservative, his real goal is building the party; not promoting a strict ideology.
Also, he's delivered some of the sharpest attacks on RomneyCare. Will he start softening his rhetoric toward the Republican front-runner?