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Barbour's difficult path

At last December's Republican Governors Association meeting in San Diego, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) gave a clue about his eventual decision not to run for president in 2012.

Reporters in attendance asked Barbour, 63, what his presidential decision would hinge on. His answer: Whether or not this is what he wanted to spend the next 10 years of his life doing -- two years running for the office, four years in first term, and another four years in a second term.

And it turned out to be the explanation he gave today, when he announced he won't jump into the 2012 race.

"A candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," Barbour said in a statement. "His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required."

Yet there was another certainty for Barbour: His path to the presidency would have been a difficult one.

Part of it was lack of name ID, especially outside the Washington Beltway. In the most recent NBC/WSJ poll, only 1% of national GOP primary voters said Barbour was their top choice for president in a potential field of nine Republican candidates.

In a smaller five-candidate field, Barbour's support ticked up to just 3%.

Another part was geography. Being the governor of Mississippi -- a solid Republican state in presidential elections -- most likely wouldn't have benefited a Barbour-led ticket in a general election.

And a final part was resume. In that same NBC/WSJ poll, being a former lobbyist -- as Barbour was before becoming governor -- was viewed as the worst candidate attribute, worse than having multiple marriages, being a FOX News commentator, or being a leader of the Tea Party movement.