LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Saturday he won’t seek the Republican presidential nomination, choosing to stick with a lucrative career as a television and radio personality over a race that would be both costly and caustic.
“All the factors say go, but my heart says no,” Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, said on his Fox News Channel show.
Huckabee’s decision further muddies the GOP field as the Republican Party seeks a challenger for President Barack Obama.
A prominent social conservative, he ranks high in national popularity polls. And, had he run, he would have been a serious contender for the party nod with instant support among Christian evangelicals who dominate the Iowa caucuses and the early South Carolina primary.
Huckabee said the past few months have been times of deep personal reflection, even as he noted that polls put him “at or near the top” among likely Republican candidates.
He said money wasn’t a problem and that his family was supportive of a run. He said he was confident of competing even in the Northeast and among less conservative members of the party.
But his heart wasn’t in it.
“My answer is clear and firm,” Huckabee said. “I will not seek the Republican nomination for president this year. I’m going to continue gladly doing what I do.”
Even before the show, Huckabee’s advisers said he was unlikely to run. Yet there was an element of doubt, as he apparently left even his closest advisers in the dark as to which way he would decide.
By opting out of a bid, Huckabee leaves his network of support up for grabs in the critical early nominating states of Iowa and South Carolina where cultural conservatives hold much power in choosing the nominee.
Huckabee, 55, painted the decision as a spiritual one.
“Being president is a job that takes one to the limit of his or her human capacity. For me, to do it apart from the inner confidence that I was undertaking it without God’s full blessing is simply unthinkable.”
The talk show is the centerpiece of Huckabee’s enterprises, which have made the one-time Baptist preacher from Hope, Ark., and 10-year governor a wealthy man.
Others in the GOP running, like Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman, sent out statements praising Huckabee.
Advisers said Huckabee could have entered the race with a front-runner status he didn’t have as a former governor fresh out of office in 2008. But another Huckabee run would have brought renewed scrutiny over his support of some tax increases in Arkansas and his record on clemency – including commuting the sentence of a man who later killed four Seattle-area police officers.