Most believed the two-term Republican Mississippi governor was all in. He had spent too much time in early primary and caucus states, put staff in place and in every way imaginable sounded like a presidential candidate.
According to Politico, Barbour had lined up an early May event to visit the early primary states for a series of announcements with major fundraisers planned in Jackson and in New York later in the month.
Then out of the blue came Monday's announcement.
Of course, there were early warning signs. First lady Marsha Barbour told the Associated Press the prospect of her husband running for president "horrified" her, and the governor's son, Sterling, also was quoted as saying he did not want his father to run.
But one has to assume the 63-year-old Yazoo City native had cleared up all family issues by this point in the process. If family was going to be an issue, his presidential aspirations would have been quelled long ago.
Not for him
The most likely reason Barbour is not running is exactly what he said in his statement - the lack of that proverbial fire in the belly that a politician must possess to undertake such a monumental task.
Chances are, as the campaign kickoff inched closer Barbour decided that presidential politics was not the place for him.
Count me among those who do not believe Barbour could have won. He would have been a serious candidate who added a lot to the campaign, but I find it hard to believe America is ready to elect the governor of Mississippi as president.
Our state has too many issues - some real, some perceived - for America to look to Mississippi to elect a president.
True, America elected Bill Clinton from neighboring Arkansas and a black man from Hawaii. At the same point in the process that Barbour would be now I did not believe either of those two had a chance.
But Barbour, though I am convinced he takes second seat to no one as a political strategist, does not possess the charisma of Clinton or Barack Obama.
I also am convinced that Barbour thought he could win - and probably still does. And let's be honest, he is a lot smarter than I am so I'm probably wrong about his chances.
In November 2006 when the Democrats gained control of the U.S. Senate and House, I interviewed both of Mississippi's senators at the time - Thad Cochran and Trent Lott. The Republican pair sounded conciliatory - almost as if it was inevitable. One party holds power for a while and then loses it to the other side.
But I also talked to Barbour after that election. As former chair of the Republican National Committee, he played a key role in the Republicans gaining power in 1994 - power they lost in 2006.
Unlike Lott and Cochran, he seemed mad. He hid it, but just barely. He didn't think the Republicans should have lost the election, and he was upset about it.
I think Haley Barbour believes he can win every election in which he becomes involved. Deep down he probably is still mad about losing as a young, unknown candidate to the legendary John Stennis for the U.S. Senate in 1982.
Involvement at home
That brings us back home to Mississippi in 2011. By not running for president, the term-limited governor will have more of an opportunity to be involved in state elections this year.
He will have favorites in the Republican primary. He will work quietly behind the scenes for the candidates he supports. He does not believe in airing the party's dirty linen in public.
And then, he will come out publicly with much fanfare and furor for the Republican nominee - regardless of who that is - in the general election. And this will occur in numerous races. Barbour is interested in electing Republicans at every level of Mississippi government.
That spells bad new for a state Democratic Party that already has had its share of disappointments in recent years.
Bobby Harrison is Capitol Bureau reporter in Jackson for the Daily Journal. Contact him at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.