Former Arkansas governor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said on his Fox News program "Huckabee" that he will not be running for president in 2012.
On his program, Huckabee mentioned the fact that several presidential polls had put him ahead of many of the other potential GOP candidates for the 2012 race. However, Huckabee said he concluded after serious reflection that "all the factors say go, but my heart says no. And that's the decision I've made."
Huckabee called the decision not to run as a "spiritual" one made amidst the "profound peace" he found in quiet, personal contemplation.
The news of Huckabee's decision to run or not had largely been kept under wraps, with a Fox News executive claiming recently that Huckabee had "not told anyone at FOX News Channel his decision," prior to the on-air announcement.
Huckabee has a strong base among the social conservatives, and had been atop early polls of presidential favorites in the wide-open Republican primary field.
The Fox News host drew out the announcement on his program, waiting until the very end of his hour-long time slot to say whether or not he would run, despite hinting he might do so at the beginning of the show.
As CBS News reported in March, there had been mounting signs that Huckabee would not enter the race, including his decision to stay on the sidelines as potential rivals have scooped up key staffers, his lack of contact with operatives in key early states, and his decision to build a $3 million beach house in Santa Rosa Beach in Florida.
Huckabee was getting between 25 and 30 percent of the votes in various early polls, The Washington Post reports. Those voters are now up for grabs, and after the announcement was made, several GOP candidates sought to gain a little of the Huckabee shine in statements praising the former governor and avid rock-and-roll fan.
Newt Gingrich said: "Had Governor Huckabee decided to run, there is no question he would have been a frontrunner in the 2012 campaign for president. He has achieved that prominence without a campaign simply based on his personal appeal and the attractiveness of his views and his character."
Rick Santorum said: "I have long admired Governor Huckabee and his commitment to talking about the critical issues facing America. Those of us who believe in the virtues and values of life and family can never have enough allies, and I am grateful to Governor Huckabee for helping to keep those issues front and center."
Former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman said: "Our country has been very fortunate to have Mike Huckabee as a leader and public servant. His commitment to this country and its core values -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- is a model to which all elected officials should aspire. It is unfortunate that we will not have his voice -- or his bass guitar -- in the presidential debate, as our party would have benefited from his involvement."
Fox News suspended Gingrich and Santorum in early March ahead of likely presidential runs but notably declined to suspend Huckabee. Executives at the company had reportedly been pressuring Huckabee to make a decision.
Huckabee's absence from the race is good news for Santorum and another potential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, who appear to be looking to win over the voters who might otherwise flock to Huckabee. The former governor was the surprise winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses.