Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) took himself out of the running for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday.
Barbour surprised most observers by saying in a statement that he wouldn't run for president in 2012.
The Mississippi governor had been seen as a favorite by political observers for his long experience in Republican politics, having served as a chairman of the Republican National Committee and, most recently, as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) during the 2010 cycle. He is a strong fundraiser with a Rolodex filled with some of the most powerful names in GOP politics.
His decision comes after a trip earlier this month to the early primary state of New Hampshire, as well as other trips this year to key GOP primary states. Barbour had also built up a tentative campaign infrastructure, which led many in the media to conclude that a run for the presidential nomination was all but inevitable.
Ultimately, Barbour said that he couldn't commit to having the 10 years' worth of "fire in the belly" he viewed as necessary to sustain a run for president, and to possibly continue in that role, if he were elected.
"A candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," he said. "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."
Barbour's wife, Marsha, had expressed reservations about the race. She told a Mississippi television station earlier this month that the thought of Barbour running "horrifies me" because it would be a "huge sacrifice for a family to make."
Ultimately, Barbour's potential candidacy hadn't gained much traction at this point in the race. Just 1 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents named Barbour as their choice for the party's nominee in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week. A Gallup poll last Friday had Barbour at 2 percent.
Barbour had previously talked down his own candidacy, as well, referring to his Mississippi drawl and portly stature and wondering how it would play with primary voters. He's joked with reporters that he'd have to lose another 20 pounds to run for president.
He also made some missteps earlier this year when critics pounced on Barbour's recollection of the Civil Rights era during his youth in Mississippi.
His decision not to run could leave the other hopefuls scrambling to nab operatives, consultants and supporters of Barbour's as they prepare their own White House bids. His endorsement would be important, particularly given his ability to fundraise.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) named Nick Ayers, the highly touted executive director of the RGA during Barbour's tenure, as his campaign manager earlier in April.
Pawlenty praised Barbour and noted he worked with him at the RGA.
"Nobody has done more than Haley to build the Republican Party over the last three decades, including last year, when I had the privilege to be his vice chairman at the Republican Governors Association. He is one of the Republican Party's great leaders and an outstanding Governor for Mississippi. When Republicans defeat Barack ObamaBarack ObamaUnderstanding why populist fires are still 'Berning' Clinton at risk of being upstaged An important week for Puerto Rico In Philadelphia MORE next year, it will be thanks to the solid party foundation Haley helped build," he said in a statement.
Barbour's exit could also open the door for a potential candidate like Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who's told reporters he will make a decision on a presidential bid after the Indiana General Assembly finishes it session, which is scheduled to end Friday.
Daniels and Barbour have been friends since they worked together in the Reagan administration. Daniels has said on previous occasions he would hesitate to get into the race if Barbour ran.
Last updated at 4:23 p.m.