WASHINGTON (AP) — TV host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says he is leaving his Fox News talk show as he considers whether to seek the Republican nomination for president, a decision he expects to reach in the spring.
Huckabee said Saturday night's edition of "Huckabee" would be his last as he ponders his political future. The weekly show, which is taped with a live audience and features political commentary as well as interviews with guests and musical entertainment, has been on the air for more than six years.
"There's been a great deal of speculation as to whether I would run for president. And if I were willing to absolutely rule that out, I could keep doing this show. But I can't make such a declaration," he said at the end of Saturday's program.
"Now, I'm not going to make a decision about running until late in the spring of 2015, but the continued chatter has put Fox News into a position that just isn't fair to them — nor is it possible for me to openly determine political and financial support to justify a race. The honorable thing to do at this point is to end my tenure here at Fox. Now, as much as I have loved doing the show, I cannot bring myself to rule out another presidential run."
The former Baptist preacher and Arkansas chief executive — he led the state from 1996 to 2007 — is a favorite among social conservatives. While hosting the TV show he has published books, appeared at conservative conferences around the country and offered harsh criticism of President Barack Obama's policies.
Huckabee has been particularly critical of the nation's swing toward accepting gay marriage. In October, after the Supreme Court rejected appeals from five states that sought to prohibit marriage by same-sex couples, he said: "It is shocking that many elected officials, attorneys and judges think that a court ruling is the 'final word.' It most certainly is not."
He campaigned last fall for several Republican office-seekers — among them Senate candidates Joni Ernst in Iowa, David Perdue in Georgia, Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Mike Rounds in South Dakota. Rounds was national chairman of Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign.
Huckabee, 59, won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, finishing ahead of Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, John McCain and Ron Paul. He came in third, however, in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, behind McCain and Romney. McCain emerged as the leader in the primaries that followed and Huckabee ended his campaign that March.