(CNN) - Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Monday he will not run for president in 2012.
"I will not be a candidate for president next year," Barbour, a Republican, said in a statement. "This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided."
Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said he would continue serving as governor of Mississippi and work to "elect a new Republican president in 2012."
Although he is popular among Washington insiders, he has had trouble gaining traction in recent national polls. In an April CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll of likely Republican voters, Barbour received less than one half of one percent. But he did win a recent straw poll in Charleston County, South Carolina with 22 percent.
According to a source close to Barbour, the governor felt he received positive receptions on recent trips to the early contest states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, but that his decision in the end came down to a "gut feeling"
"He just wasn't quite there," the source said Monday. "It wasn't one particular thing. To run for president obviously is a big decision."
His announcement eliminates one name from a still crowded field of potential Republican candidates against President Barack Obama's re-election bid.
One of the likely GOP contenders for the party's nomination, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, praised Barbour as "one of the Republican Party's great leaders."
"When Republicans defeat Barack Obama next year, it will be thanks to the solid party foundation Haley helped build," Pawlenty said in a statement.
GOP consultant Ford O'Connell, who worked on Barbour's 2007 gubernatorial re-election campaign and for the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008, said Barbour's decision makes him "the most important man in the Republican Party not running for president."
"There are only three things Haley Barbour loves more than America: his wife, Marsha, his family and Mississippi. And it is time for him to focus on the things he cares about most," O'Connell said. "One of the hallmarks of Haley Barbour is his low-key behind the scenes effectiveness, and I don't expect that to diminish in any way."
From Gov. Barbour:
“I will not be a candidate for president next year. This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided.
“Hundreds of people have encouraged me to run and offered both to give and raise money for a presidential campaign. Many volunteers have organized events in support of my pursuing the race. Some have dedicated virtually full time to setting up preliminary organizations in critical, early states and to helping plan what has been several months of intensive activity.
“I greatly appreciate each and every one of them and all their outstanding efforts. If I have disappointed any of them in this decision, I sincerely regret it.
“A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else. 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.
“This decision means I will continue my job as Governor Mississippi, my role in the Republican Governors Association and my efforts to elect a new Republican president in 2012, as the stakes for the nation require that effort to be successful.”
- CNN's Peter Hamby, Kevin Bohn and Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report