It’s official. Haley Barbour, after months of serious exploration, including the hiring of staff and winning endorsements, has announced he won’t compete in the 2012 presidential race. That sound you hear is an exhale of disappointment from the dozens of investigative reporters across the Northeast corridor who had been itching to do stories on the vast paper trail of the first mega-lobbyist to seriously consider seeking the White House.
From the beginning, Barbour’s potential campaign faced enormous hurdles. At a time of national revulsion with Washington insiders, Barbour was the ultimate insider, wearing the badge of lobbyist with pride. (Even as Governor of Mississippi, he continued to make visits to his old Washington lobbying firm, saying he was just “borrowing a cheap phone.”) He looked, talked and acted Southern, a historic no-no for a Republican wanting to win nationwide. (The Southerners who tend to compete for the White House, like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, tend to be Democrats, who are able to rub elbows without threatening folks on the Upper East side, not former tobacco lobbyists.)
His paper trail was enormous. His financial disclosure records were ambiguous. His wife didn’t really want him to do it. In early appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire, his performance was passable, without making any real waves. And yet he persevered, confident in his own abilities as a schmoozer and deal-maker, his enormous Rolodex of campaign donors, and his evident love of the political game.
Then he made his decision.
Here is his statement:
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.