Governor Haley Barbour pulled out of the 2012 presidential race on Monday. Technically, Barbour withdrew before entering the race. The reality is that he has been running since the Fall and is the first serious candidate to withdraw from the race.

There is little speculation in the Mississippi papers as to why Barbour withdrew. That clears the deck for a wing-nut legal blogger to speculate away. From the outfield seats, here’s why it looks like Barbour pulled out.

  1. Barbour’s campaign was not getting any traction.

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal made this point:

Richard Quinn, a South Carolina political strategist advising the political action committee of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another possible entrant to the race, said Mr. Barbour’s was struggling in the state, and that his decision underscores Republican voters’ dissatisfaction with the current crop of candidates.

Mr. Barbour has spent weeks meeting voters in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. But his would-be candidacy was not getting any lift in the polls. Hewas seventh in a poll of likely GOP voters in South Carolina released Monday by American Research Group, with support from 2% of those polled.

Without support in a southern state such as South Carolina, there appeared to be no road to the nomination for Mr. Barbour, who would have been pitted against Midwesterners such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in Iowa and against Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, in neighboring New Hampshire.

    2.    Health Issues.

Barbour is 63 years old and had back surgery last week. It’s possible that he did not believe that he was physically up to campaigning for the next 18 months. There is no shame there if that is the case. I don’t see how presidential candidates do it. And John McCain is an exception. McCain is a former POW who could probably eat nails. Barbour is a mere mortal like the rest of us.

    3.     Obama Will Probably Win Re-election.

The question of whether President Obama will win re-election is a fluid issue. Last Fall I would have said no. Now, it looks like he will win re-election. Does Haley Barbour really want to campaign for 18 months to suffer a Bob Dole-like loss? Probably not.

   4.     The Nut-job Factor.

There is a nut-job factor in the Republican nomination process that I believe works against Haley Barbour. Speculation in the national media is that Republicans who want to get the nomination will have to pander to the large base of nut-job Republicans. Like the birthers. To his credit, I can’t see Governor Barbour going on TV and trying to look as dumb as possible on some issues so he will play better with the nut-job crowd.

Conclusion

I am a little sad that it’s already over for Mississippi’s first serious presidential candidate. Who knows when we will have anyone else who is even in the discussion.

Barbour is a force who is respected by allies and opponents alike. As one person once told me: “I may not like what Haley Barbour tells me he is going to do, but at least he is not going to say one thing to my face and then go do the opposite.”

It will be very interesting to see what Governor Barbour does when his term expires in January. No doubt he will be on the campaign trail in 2012 beating the drum for Republican candidates and accumulating IOU’s.