Mike Huckabee formally bowed out of the presidential running on Saturday, announcing on his FOX News show that he had decided not to enter the race even as he believed he was a top-tier contender.
“All the factors say go,” he said, “but my heart says no.”
The former Arkansas governor said that he had concluded that he could raise the necessary funds and build the necessary campaign infrastructure to win the nomination, but that he felt an “inner peace” in contemplating his final decision, which he said was borne out of prayer and meditation.
“I don’t expect everyone to understand this, but I’m a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ and that relationship is far more important to me than any political office,” he said. “For me the discussion and decision is ultimately not a political one … it’s a spiritual one.”
In a bizarre twist, Huckabee’s announcement was immediately followed by a surprise appearance from Donald Trump, who praised the decision with a wink towards his own presidential ambitions.“A lot of people are very happy that he will not be running, especially other candidates,” Trump said. “So Mike, enjoy the show, your ratings are terrific, you’re making a lot of money, you’re building a beautiful house in Florida, good luck.”
He made his announcement shortly after a taped recording of him and Ted Nugent playing “Cat Scratch Fever” in an episode that also featured former Saved By The Bell star Mario Lopez, perhaps early indicators that this wasn’t the venue for a presidential declaration.
Huckabee was considered one of the most credible challengers for the nomination after a strong performance in 2008 that included an upset win in the Iowa caucuses and a large share of the vote in a number of Southern states. Surveys of Republican voters often showed him leading the 2012 field while national polls indicated he could be competitive against President Obama in a direct matchup.
But despite his loyal following, he gave little indication over the last year he was preparing for a run. Many of his most prominent supporters and aides from 2008 began taking jobs with other presidential candidates in recent months and some, most notably his advisor Ed Rollins, openly predicted he would sit out the contest.