Image: Mike Huckabee
Rogelio V. Solis  /  AP
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/14/2011 9:24:55 PM ET 2011-05-15T01:24:55

Mike Huckabee ended his presidential tease on Saturday night, saying on his Fox News Channel television show that he would not run for the Republican nomination for president next year.

Huckabee, winner of the Iowa Republican caucus in 2008, had been exploring a bid but said Saturday that he had made a "spiritual" decision not to run.

"All the factors say go, but my heart says no," he said.

Huckabee's decision further muddies the GOP field as the Republican Party seeks a challenger for President Barack Obama.

A prominent social conservative, he ranks high in national popularity polls. And, had he run, he would have been a serious contender for the party nod with instant support among Christian evangelicals who dominate the Iowa caucuses and the early South Carolina primary.

Huckabee said the past few months have been times of deep personal reflection, even as he noted that polls put him "at or near the top" among likely Republican candidates.

He said money wasn't a problem and that his family was supportive of a run. He said he was confident of competing even in the Northeast and among less conservative members of the party.

But his heart wasn't in it.

"My answer is clear and firm," Huckabee said. "I will not seek the Republican nomination for president this year. I'm going to continue doing what I do."

In addition to his TV show, Huckabee hosts a nationally syndicated radio program, gives paid speeches around the country and has even launched a series of animated videos for children on American history.

The talk show is the centerpiece of Huckabee's enterprises, which have made the one-time Baptist preacher from Hope, Ark., and 10-year governor a wealthy man with a $2.2 million beachfront home under construction in Florida. Huckabee, 55, and his wife moved their residency and voter registration to the state last year.

Ed Rollins and other advisers had said Huckabee could enter the race with a frontrunner status he didn't have as a former governor fresh out of office in 2008.

But another Huckabee run would have brought renewed scrutiny over his support of some tax increases in Arkansas and his record on clemency — including commuting the sentence of a man who later killed four Seattle-area police officers.

Msnbc.com staff contributed to this report from The Associated Press.

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