Despite the money, the connections, the charm, an a direct line to the hearts of D.C. access journalists,* Haley Barbour won't run for president in 2012.
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 (sic), 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."
Barbour frees up a ton of money for his friend Mitch Daniels, who has been dithering about a presidential bid since, well, this.
That's not to say that no Barbour = more Daniels. It's just to say that Daniels, who'd worked with Barbour during the Reagan administration, was extremely unlikely to run against his old friend. And now Daniels has one less excuse. He still has plenty of them.
Barbour had lined up top talent for this bid-- Mike Dennehy, who powered John McCain to a New Hampshire comeback in 2008, for example -- that's now free to go with someone else. They always had a tough job, although very few Republicans would say why it was so tough. After all, their party is immensely strong in the South. Three of the last four Democratic presidents had come from the South. The problem with Barbour, some Republicans feared, was that there was just something about Mississippi, something that made swing voters more antsy than, say, they are about politicians from Norh Carolina or Georgia. They worried that voters who were disappointed with Barack Obama but had been proud of their votes for the first black president would think twice about replacing him with a Southerner who was tin-eared about civil rights.