Reporting from Washington — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won several Republican primaries in the 2008 presidential race, said Saturday that he will not make a run for the White House in 2012.
"All the factors say go, but my heart says no," Huckabee told viewers at the end of his Fox News program. "My answer is clear and firm. I will not seek the Republican nomination for president this year. I'm going to gladly continue doing what I do."
Since losing the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, Huckabee has fashioned a lucrative post-political career as an author, speaker and contributor to Fox News, where he makes about $500,000 a year in a contract that goes through 2012.
Still, he had been weighing another run for president. Ed Rollins, who chaired his 2008 effort, said Friday that Huckabee had seemed to be leaning toward running two weeks ago, but then appeared less sure in their most recent conversation.
"I think over the last couple years he's developed a lifestyle he likes," Rollins said. "He's making money, publishing books, he has his show. I didn't [get] the sense that every day he got up in the mirror and said, 'There's the next president of the United States.' "
Associates also noted that Huckabee dislikes fundraising, an essential aspect of a campaign. "You feel that's all you end up doing," he said Friday on Fox.
Huckabee, who served as governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 and is an ordained Southern Baptist minister, was largely overlooked in the early stages of the 2008 primary campaign. But a late surge among socially conservative voters made him the surprise winner of the leadoff Iowa caucuses. He outlasted most of the other candidates, winning seven other nominating contests, mainly in the South, before ceding to GOP nominee Sen. John McCain.
Polling showed that had he decided to run, he would have been among the early front-runners, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But like Romney, he would have carried baggage into the new campaign. Fiscal conservatives have long viewed his record in Arkansas skeptically, saying he raised taxes and expanded government.
He also would have faced renewed attacks for granting pardons and sentence commutations to hundreds of felons in Arkansas. One man granted clemency by Huckabee over the objection of prosecutors later killed four police officers in Washington state in 2009.
His departure comes after two other Republicans, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, announced their candidacies last week. Already, two former governors, Romney and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, have formed exploratory committees to raise funds for potential bids.
Others considering a run for the GOP nomination include Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and real estate magnate Donald Trump.
Trump made a surprise cameo Saturday on Fox News after the broadcast to applaud Huckabee's decision.
Matea Gold in the Washington bureau and Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this report.