Haley Barbour
Rogelio V. Solis  /  AP
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour speaks in Jackson, Miss., on April 21. Barbour says he won't be a presidential candidate for 2012.
updated 4/25/2011 6:44:41 PM ET 2011-04-25T22:44:41

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour bowed out of presidential contention Monday with a surprise announcement just as the 2012 campaign was getting under way in earnest, 18 months before Election Day. The Mississippi governor said he lacked the necessary "absolute fire in the belly" to run.

Barbour's declaration, unexpected because he had been laying the groundwork for a campaign for months, thins a Republican cluster of no less than a dozen potential candidates to take on Democratic President Barack Obama.

With the GOP campaign's first debate scheduled for next week, the muddy Republican field will become clearer very soon as more potential contenders announce whether they'll run or sit out. The next, facing a self-imposed deadline of this weekend, is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Barbour friend and a fiscal conservative who has shined a spotlight on rising budget deficits and national debt.

Barbour's difficult path
  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

"All eyes will be on Daniels. ... It's a clear path for him if he wants to run," said Doug Gross, an Iowa Republican who dined with Barbour last month and left questioning whether the governor had the hunger to get in the race.

It turns out he didn't.

"I will not be a candidate for president next year," the two-term governor said a statement, adding that he wasn't ready for a "10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort."

As the GOP race comes into sharper focus, Obama is working to both prevent an erosion of his support while under Republican attack and to raise enough money to overwhelm his eventual foe. He's been packing his schedule with fundraisers and visits to battleground states as he gears up for what he says will be a tough campaign.

Barbour: 'I will not be a candidate for president next year'

This week alone, he will raise money in New York and return to his hometown of Chicago — also the site of his campaign headquarters — to tape an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." He then will head to Florida, a pivotal swing state, to deliver a commencement address at Miami Dade College and attend the launch of Endeavour, NASA's next-to-last space shuttle flight.

Potentially vulnerable, Obama has middling poll ratings and is seeking a second term in a country reeling over high unemployment, rising gas prices and the remnants of recession.

Yet, the GOP faces plenty of its own troubles.

Its field lacks a front-runner. Most of the candidates are largely unknown to Republicans. The most recent Associated Press-GfK poll indicated that only half of all Republicans were satisfied by their choices and a third were dissatisfied.

Unlike four years ago, GOP presidential hopefuls have been hesitant to rush into the race. Many have been mindful of the long slog and huge costs of a campaign. Several also have been waiting to see what the first half of the year would bring, when the focus would be on the new House GOP majority and its tangles with the Democratic administration.

But now, the clock is ticking, and candidates are under pressure to commit to participating in multi-candidate events.

Neither a forum in New Hampshire on Friday nor a debate in Greenville, S.C., next week — the first of the campaign — is expected to draw a full slate of candidates. No such slate exists yet.

So far, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who lost the nomination in 2008, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was on John McCain's vice presidential short list, have set up presidential exploratory committees allowing them raise money for full-fledged campaigns. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to make his campaign official as early as next week.

A cluster of lesser-knowns also have inched toward the race, including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Many Republicans had expected Barbour would be the next one in, given his recent activity.

He had visited several states with early presidential contests, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He also had lined up a large network of political advisers. And he had tested an economy-focused campaign speech in Chicago last month. The governor had even lost some weight as advisers had suggested, and they had been plotting an "announcement tour" in which he would declare himself a candidate.

But several allies said Barbour, known as one of the smartest political operatives in the GOP, ultimately decided he didn't have what it takes to win.

He could have been a formidable contender had he entered the race. He has a knack for raising money, a resume dating to Ronald Reagan's White House and brand of folksy Southern charisma. His hurdles would have been high, too. He's a former lobbyist and former Republican National Committee chairman who would have tried to woo a primary electorate underwhelmed by Washington insiders. Among his other vulnerabilities: what critics have called tone deafness about Mississippi's divisive racial history.

Barbour delivered the news Monday in a phone call with some 50 people who were advising him, and then his office sent out a statement.

"A candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," Barbour said in the 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."

Former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Richard Schwarm, who was with Barbour and Gross last month, said that Barbour mentioned during dinner that he had encouraged Daniels to run.

It's unclear whether Daniels will heed that advice.

A onetime senior executive at Eli Lilly & Co. and a former budget director under George W. Bush, Daniels has said he would wait until his state legislature adjourns at the end of the week before considering his next plans. He says he's done little to prepare for a campaign beyond think about it and discuss it with his family, including his wife who was cool to a White House run but has agreed to headline a major fundraiser for the state GOP next month.

At the same time, another likely candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, is to return to the United States early next week. His work for the Obama administration as the U.S. ambassador to China ends Sunday, and he will make his first appearance in an early primary state on May 7 in South Carolina, where he will deliver a commencement address.

He's been barred from engaging in politics as an ambassador, but advisers have spent the past few months building a shadow campaign operation so that he will be ready to run if he chooses.

Story: Spring brings fundraising frenzy for GOP hopefuls

Two others weighing bids and drawing considerable attention, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and New York real estate mogul Donald Trump, have said they would decide whether to run before the summer.

It may be some time before two of the biggest question marks of the 2012 GOP nomination fight are answered: Will Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee get in the race?

Both are leaving the door wide open to candidacies, but neither seems in a rush to make any plans public. In recent months, they haven't done much beyond give a handful of speeches and appear on Fox News, where they both have contracts.

Story: New Hampshire's GOP primary not just a Republican party

Both will headline high-profile events over the next two weeks:

Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, is addressing a "Heroes Among Us" fundraiser in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday and is headlining a tribute to the troops at Colorado Christian University in Denver early next week. Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses and a former Arkansas governor, will speak to the National Rifle Association in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Either one would further shake up an already unpredictable race.

Liz Sidoti reported from Washington; Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, Philip Elliott in Indianapolis and Ben Feller in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Is the GOP 2012 field taking shape?

  1. Closed captioning of: Is the GOP 2012 field taking shape?

    >>> be coming into focus soon. it is about time. haley barbour and mitch daniels are wrapping up their legislative sessions and are expected to make some decisions. and jon huntsman officially returns from his diplomatic post in beijing. but as donald trump stolen the march on all of them by dominating the airwaves while they have been pondering their next moves and trump goes to new hampshire this week. charlie cook is the editor of "the cook political report " and analyst. we have been -- we always complain it is too soon. now we have been complaining it hasn't taken shape. is it beginning to take some form here?

    >> i think by the end of june, fourth of july the latest, everybody that is going to get in has to have gotten in. we have to remember that august, the iowa caucus , new hampshire primary will be six months away. the iowa straw poll which is the first really big event is coming up in mid-august. and so people have to begin. but it is slow taking shape, but i think one thing is that a lot of the candidates -- a lot of the people learned from last time, you don't have to run in every single state. so you're going to be seeing these folks picking which states they're going to focus on and which ones they're going to ignore.

    >> some of them have to get started on organizing and money and on hiring the key field personnel. where do you see signs that someone is really getting serious?

    >> romney, pawlenty, santorum, they're in, no question about it. and, you know, newt is close to the line, as you said, mitch daniels and haley barbour are -- there is still some degree of doubt, more so with mitch daniels than haley barbour .

    >> is it likely that one or the other would get in since they're so close?

    >> they both have the same desk back to back in the reagan white house , as you remember, when you were there. the they're a lot alike. they're close to the truth tellers, the folks willing to say what they think, even if it may not be the most political ly advantageous thing to say.

    >> is there some political value in that? is that dangerous? we saw what happened with walter mondale when he said, you know, ronald reagan will raise your taxes, you know, he won't tell you, i just did. and ronald reagan did raise your taxes. that said, mondale paid a big penalty for that.

    >> i think that you get a -- you get accolades from journalists. you get accolades from the league of women voters for telling the truth. it generally doesn't -- it doesn't work to your benefit. there is a reason why the spin meisters come up with talking points. and that is these are the things that are most likely to strike a resonant chord with voters. and, you know, each side really is sort of telling half truths.

    >> and more than 50%, 55 or 56% of the new york times polling of republicans didn't like any of the choices. what about donald trump going to new hampshire ? he just doesn't strike me as a new hampshire kind of guy.

    >> you and i have talked about it. i'm a trump skeptic. i'm coming around. i guess he's going to run for a while. but, yeah, i kind of have a hard time seeing him going door to door in some of these places.

    >> unless he's trying to sell a condo.

    >> yeah. i mean, look, you know, he's going to do what he's going to do and he's got the money to do it. he's not like mike huckabee where it is a costly thing to run. he'll do what he wants to do and, you know, we'll have to watch in amazement, kind of when you watch a car wreck or something.

    >> thank you very much, charlie

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments