Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is in the middle of a busy week of political travel, triggering chatter that he may be getting his ducks in a row for a possible 2012 presidential run.
Barbour will headline fundraisers in New Hampshire and Iowa on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. He campaigned across Virginia with Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell on Monday.
He is the first high-profile politician to hit the two "first in the nation" caucuses and primary states on back-to-back days without being an official presidential candidate.
Asked Monday about when he would make up his mind about a run for the White House in 2012, Barbour answered, "Probably never."
Barbour is a former Republican National Committee chairman and has national stature among GOP insiders. He is a veteran of numerous national campaigns and worked with former Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan as well as George H.W. Bush.
Barbour conveniently wraps up his second term as Mississippi governor in 2011. Because of how aggressive his travel schedule looks Barbour is now doing the classic candidate two-step, throwing cold water on any talk of a possible presidential run and saying the back-to-back events in New Hampshire and Iowa are just a coincidence.
"John Sununu, who is the new state party chairman of New Hampshire and is a friend of mine from back in the '80s, called me one day and said, 'Look, I want someone to come up here and talk about party building and I want somebody who's not running for president,' and I said, 'John, I'm your man,'" Barbour said during an exclusive interview with FOX News on his upcoming trip to the critical early states.
When pressed on the issue Barbour preferred to talk about upcoming elections, rather than 2012.
"Republicans who care about our country and our party need to be focused on elections of 2009 and 2010, that's where we could really make a difference getting the country and our party back on track. ... Then start thinking about 2012, I've given that advice to thousands of people, I'm going to take it myself," he said.
Barbour seemed lukewarm about the idea of being president.
"I'm one of the few people who has actually worked in the White House and knows what a hard often thankless job it is. This is the hardest job in the world," he said.
Barbour also chimed in on the debate within the Republican Party between moderates and conservatives, and suggested the tent is still big enough for everyone.
"Ours is a huge party. Twice in America 60 percent of Americans have voted a Republican president, 1972 and 1984. Well it's asinine to think 60 percent of the public would agree on everything, my wife doesn't even agree with me all the time," he said.
"In a big party people are going to disagree, it's the same way with the Democrats as the Republicans. Purity is not normal for politics. Purity is a license to lose. In politics you want a big coalition, you want to manage it and emphasize the things you agree on and you don't have to agree with Haley Barbour on everything to be a good Republican. That's just a fact and it's the way we need to manage our party. That's the way you win," Barbour continued.
Barbour also said he thinks the Republican Party is in a good position to make a comeback,
"Clearly, the further left the Obama administration and the Democrat Congress go, the more ground there is for Republicans to not only be against bad policy like the cap-and-trade tax or government run health care system but also show our ideas of what we would do," he said, adding that governors get to demonstrate policy whereas Congress dictates it.
"Congress is about to be in a position where they're going to be able to say, 'Here's what we would do about financial services reform, here's what we'd do about energy reform, here's what we'd do to improve health care in the United States without creating an incredibly expensive, Lord-knows-how-you-ever-pay-for-it government run health care system.'"
Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.