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Haley Barbour
Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Just announced:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour announced Monday that he will not seek the presidency in 2012, a surprise move sure to send ripples through the evolving Republican field.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, he suggested that he didn’t have “the fire in the belly” to run for the White House, despite having staffing in place in early primary states and a national fundraising network.

"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,” he said.

Personally, I never saw a path to victory for Barbour, not with his his love for the Confederate flag and his long history as a lobbyist. But for a while, I had imagined that Barbour had conned himself into thinking he could win. I guess reality - namely, the reality that he'd be trading a cushy retirement for the rigors of the campaign trail with a limited chance at winning - won out.

Now speculation will turn to who else in the GOP field Barbour's absence benefits most. Is it Mike Huckabee, who probably has the greatest regional appeal in the South? Tim Pawlenty, who, like Barbour, has managed to fool the Beltway into thinking he's "reasonable"? Someone else entirely? Please share your best guesses in comments.

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