Update: Politico has a great piece up delving into the back story of why Barbour decided not to run, despite all signs to the contrary. Click here to check it out.  

Governor of Mississippi and uber-political strategist, Haley Barbour, announced today that he is not running for President. This is a surprise development, as Barbour had been staffing up with some of the top operatives in the early states, including Michael Dennehy who led McCain to victory twice in the NH primary in 2000 and 2008.

Barbour, the former RNC head and senior Reagan  Administration politico, was thought to be a formidable presence in the  race because of a fat donor rolodex and a shrewd political instinct.  Last cycle, Barbour headed up the highly successful Republican Governor's Association which raised a record $113 million and racked up huge victories across the nation, starting with Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell in 2009. 

(Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore)

But Barbour begged off:

“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,” Barbour said in a statement.

“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,” he added. “I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required.”

This leaves the race open for another Southern candidate to jump in, where they might expect a leg up in the South Carolina primary. It also leaves the door open for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to run, who said he wasn't inclined to run against his long-time friend.

It is also good news for Tim Pawlenty, who was the Vice Chairman of the RGA last cycle and whose RGA connections collided with Barbour's. Pawlenty's hiring of the former RGA Executive Director and Barbour confidant, Nick Ayers, a few weeks ago perhaps foreshadowed this development.