Mike Huckabee Exits Republican Presidential Race

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Since his loss to Sen. John McCain in the 2008 GOP primary, Huckabee signed lucrative contracts for a syndicated radio show ("The Huckabee Report"), his weekly Fox News television program ("Huckabee."), and for several books, including his most recent, "A Simple Government." He has also been a regular on the lecture circuit and even hosts pricey tour groups to destinations like Israel and Alaska.

That work has enabled Huckabee to live comfortably. He and his wife, Janet, began work on a multi-million dollar home near the beach in Walton County, Florida. "If I run, I walk away from a pretty good income," Huckabee told reporters at an event in Washington, D.C., in February.

The intrigue about his plans began Friday morning when he teased on his radio that he would make "a very important announcement" on television one day later.

"This weekend be sure to catch my Fox News television show," Huckabee said. "A very important announcement coming this Saturday."

He did not elaborate and even the director of Huckabee's political action committee, HuckPAC, said he was in the dark.

"I'm not exactly sure what the content's going to be," Huckabee aide Hogan Gidley told ABC News at the time, adding, "He doesn't go around throwing around a big announcement for nothing."

Later that day, Woody Fraser, the executive producer of Huckebee's Fox News show, said: "Governor Huckabee will announce tomorrow night on his program whether or not he intends to explore a presidential bid. He has not told anyone at FOX News Channel his decision."

The mystery continued to unfold in a series of appearances on Fox programs before culiminating with Saturday's show.

Rollins said he and other aides spent "hundreds of hours" working to assemble a campaign team with "no compensation." He said that after the 2008 race, Huckabee was initially interested in running again in 2016, but that the former governor decided to push up the timeline after seeing the big Republican wins during the 2010 midterm elections, the sluggish pace of the country's economic recovery and President Obama's declining approval ratings.

Rollins said he and Huckabee began discussing a potential 2012 campaign plan over dinner the night after Election Day last November -- at Huckabee's request.

Before Saturday, Huckabee had publicly expressed reluctance about another try for the GOP nomination, saying in February that while retail politics is "one of the things that I'd enjoy the most" raising the huge sums of money it would take to win primaries and the general election is "not what I do best."

Earlier this year, he said his decision-making process was "based on the personal experience of having been there, done that."

"If you've jumped out of an airplane you have a whole lot better understanding of what you're going to do the next time you're going to do it," Huckabee said.

Huckabee began his program Saturday by saying, "I'm going to end the rumors and tell you first-hand" before spending much of the next hour interviewing guests on topics ranging from the killing of Osama bin Laden to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's health care speech last week to the disastrous flooding along the Mississippi River.

He also featured an interviews with actor Mario Lopez, best known for his role in the television comedy, "Saved By The Bell" and American rock legend, Ted Nugent, who Huckabee described as a "patriot and a friend." Nugent performed the song, "Cat Scratch Fever" -- with Huckabee playing bass -- minutes before the former Arkansas governor made his announcement.

Huckabee now joins Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence on the sidelines of the Republican presidential primary race.

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