JACKSON, Miss – Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday he will not run for president in 2008 because he is too busy with Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.
Instead, Barbour, 58, said he intends to seek a second term as governor in 2007.
"There's no way I could run for president and do what I've got to do as governor. And, obviously, being governor comes first," said the former GOP national chairman, responding to questions from The Associated Press.
Barbour also dismissed the possibility of a run for vice president in 2008.
"Why would a Republican pick a running mate for Mississippi?" Barbour said, in his most definitive statement to date about his political future. "If a Republican doesn't carry Mississippi, he won't carry five states."
Since late August, when Katrina left tens of thousands of Mississippians homeless and caused billions of dollars of damage, Barbour has traveled to Washington several times to lobby for federal money for the state's recovery.
If he ran for president, Barbour would have had to abandon his duties as governor, said Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
"As it turned out, the recovery from Katrina is his calling and his legacy," Sabato said. "If he does a good job of it, he will be remembered as one of Mississippi's greatest governors."
Months before Katrina struck, one of Barbour's longtime friends and former lobbying partners, Ed Rogers, generated buzz about a possible Barbour presidential run by registering two Web sites — haley2008.com and haleyforpresident.com.
Barbour earned insider clout as political director for the Reagan White House for two years in the 1980s. He was Republican National Committee chairman from 1993 to 19997, helping to engineer the GOP's 1994 takeover of Congress. Over the years, he has made millions as a lobbyist in Washington.
Barbour defeated Democratic incumbent Ronnie Musgrove in 2003 to become Mississippi's second Republican governor since Reconstruction.