That decision would not come as a complete surprise, as observers have noted for months that Huckabee's lucrative contract with Fox News -- for whom he hosts a twice-weekly show -- as well as his newly-built Florida mansion were solid indications that he was content with his life in the private sector. In fact, Huckabee acknowledged several times during his recent book tour that financial considerations could keep him from running, noting
that "If I run, I walk away from a pretty good income."
Yet speculation around Huckabee's potential candidacy heated up several weeks ago when Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour
(R) made the surprising decision not to seek the GOP nomination, leaving a vacuum in the Republican field for a southern conservative with populist appeal. Huckabee's ability to fill that void, as well as connect with evangelical voters in Iowa and South Carolina, made pundits re-think their original analyses that he wouldn't run in 2012.
If Huckabee departs the race, the most obvious beneficiaries would be former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
(R) and Rep. Michele Bachmann
(R-Minn.), both of whom have made overt appeals to the evangelical community and are actively courting Tea Party activists. It would also help former Sen. Rick Santorum
(R-Penn.), a staunch social conservative whose hopes of competing in Iowa would have been severely diminished had Huckabee entered the race.
-- Amanda Munoz-Temple contributed to this report
Updated at 3:00 p.m.