Republican drops out of US presidential race

The Republican Governor of Mississippi has unexpectedly bowed out of presidential contention just as the 2012 campaign was beginning.

Governor Haley Barbour's decision has thinned a Republican cluster of a dozen potential candidates to take on Barack Obama in next year's election. Mr Barbour's withdrawal was unexpected because he had for months been laying the groundwork for a campaign. The two-term Governor said in a statement on Monday that he wasn't ready for a long "all-consuming effort".

With the Republican campaign's first debate scheduled for next week, the field will become clearer very soon as more potential contenders announce whether they'll run or sit out. The Texas congressman Ron Paul, who lost in 2008 and is favoured by libertarians and supporters of the Tea Party movement, was expected yesterday to announce plans to form an exploratory committee.

So far, the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who lost the nomination in 2008, and the former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who was on John McCain's vice-presidential shortlist, have set up presidential exploratory committees allowing them raise money for full-fledged campaigns. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, is expected to make his campaign official next week. The former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is among a cluster of lesser-known figures who may run.

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