Washington (CNN) – Haley Barbour's exit from the GOP presidential sweepstakes leaves his endorsement and donors up for grabs. "He's a campaign without a candidate," says GOP strategist Alex Castellanos. And those who know Barbour expect him to take sides in the GOP primary.
"I doubt Barbour will sit on the sidelines for this," one top Republican strategist tells CNN, who points out Barbour didn't endorse anyone in the 2008 presidential primary and later regretted it. This person adds, "Now he's a free agent," but don't expect anything immediate.
Two senior Republican strategists tell CNN Barbour's donors were not rushing in to support his presidential bid because they were skeptical of his chances. Still, his endorsement would likely drive a lot of support. In Republican circles Barbour brings widely admired political acumen and a vast network, developed over years as chair of the Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association.
The Mississippi governor's exit could make it easier for his friend, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, to enter the race.
"Haley Barbour is a great citizen; he’d have made a great president. I’d have been proud to try to help him had he chosen to run. The Barbours have been close and true friends to the Daniels family, and we will always be 100 percent supportive of any decision they believe is best for them," Daniels said in a statement.
Daniels is mulling a candidacy and said he will make a decision after the Indiana legislature ends its session this week.
Two senior Republican officials say he is still making up his mind. "I know this. He is undecided," one of them told CNN. Both officials insist Daniels' decision hinges on his family – not the other contenders in the race – so Barbour's move won't have a huge impact. One Republican official says it seems Daniels wants to be president, he just doesn't want to run for president.
The smaller Republican field could also give a boost to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is a friend of Barbour's from the time they served together on the Republican Governors Association. Like Barbour, Pawlenty is a social and fiscal conservative. One of Barbour's closest aides has just signed on to run Pawlenty's campaign. Pawlenty was the first of the GOP contenders to put out a statement reacting to Barbour.
It read: "Nobody has done more than Haley to build the Republican Party over the last three decades, including last year, when I had the privilege to be his vice chairman at the Republican Governors Association. He is one of the Republican Party's great leaders and an outstanding Governor for Mississippi. When Republicans defeat Barack Obama next year, it will be thanks to the solid party foundation Haley helped build."
Some of the other possible candidates seem less likely matches for Barbour's support. U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has taken moderate stances on some key issues. Mitt Romney does not have the overwhelming support of social conservatives and he and Barbour are not considered close.
Barbour's broad list of activists, fundraisers, and donor lists will probably not all go to one place, and you can expect a fight for their support. One senior adviser of Romney's said this "will open things up a bit for Mitt in this fundraising quarter."
- CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger contributed to this report.
means one less rghtwing nutjob to worry about.
"What does Barbour's exit mean for the GOP race?"
It means there will be one less fat, old, southern throwback running for the chance to sink the country again.
good riddance! not by choice though believe me. they told stand down. last of the confederates.
What does Barbour's exit mean for the GOP race?
NOTHING – because he was a TOTAL disgrace!!
In order to WIN IT they say you gotta be IN IT
And Barbour was LOSING no matter how you SPIN IT!!!
He will NOT be missed!!!
What a joke – he has done so much for Mississippi –
Leads the nation in Obesity, Teen Pregnancy, Teen Drop-out Rate, Terrible employment rates, on Race Relations said publically that the 50's wasn't so bad after all.
Yea, Just what the country needs – the Gov of a State where if you get a divorce you're still brother and sister.
No presidential run means maybe he can try to do something about the MS dire economic situation instead of trying to blame Obama for it. He is smarter than he looks. Can you imagine trying to defend, or brag about, your record in running the state of MS?
1 down many more to go !
Only Obama has enough money to buy votes.
I have surveyed every sitting Republican Senator and Governor for new prospects. I suggest (in alphabetical order): Michele Bachmann, Jim Demint, Jim Hoeven, Mark Kirk, Mike Lee (VP), Lisa Murkowski, and Rob Portman so far. There may be other candidates and I have not exactly finished. First, I qualified them by age. Ron Paul is 75 now, how he going to hold up in 8 years? We have all seen the pictures of presidents before and after pictures. The job takes a heavy toll. I've marked Mike Lee as VP because he is a little young and a little inexperienced for a Presidential run, but after 8 years as VP he would be a good follow through candidate. I then looked at their experience and any controversial issues I could easily find on the 'net. These guys look good. There could be more I have not exhausted my research. But start with these guys. If you don't think they can't generate the funding, let's just all settle on one and fund him.
Looks like the kkk vote is up for grabs.
Just one less Kook in the fray.
Tim Pawlenty is smoking something if he thinks the Republicans will beat President Obama in 2012.
It means one less redneck the American people have to listen to. Who cares!!
All it means is that it will free up some of the racist vote for other candidates.
At least fewer room deodorizers will be needed when the republicans get together. There's still going to be plenty of them needed, just not as many.
It means absolutely nothing, who was going to vote for this guy?
It means, one less lair to deal with.
Smart man, he knows he has nothing to sell, but them Snake Oil...and he can only sell it in the South.
The govorner of the poorest state in the union doesn't need to run.
Get your own house in order... Oh, A republican... Well, never mind.
Well, they still don't have a front runner other than the clown Trump. Oh...and they really don't have a platform either, other than to kill Medicare and Social security and put the corporations in control of every aspect of our lives.
Guess it means that they might not need a football field in to hold the debates, cause a lot of other ego trippers won't enter the race. They know their changes are nil to none of winning.
Wake me up when there's a serious contender. This sure wasn't the one.