Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Wednesday that he will not run for president in 2008, saying he plans to "take a sabbatical from public life" and return to his Tennessee home and his professional roots as a doctor.
Long viewed as a potential front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Frist said now is not the time to run for higher office.
"In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close," he said in a written statement. "I do not intend to run for president in 2008."
While the first national convention delegates won't be chosen for more than a year, jockeying among potential contenders is well under way in what could be the most wide-open presidential race in decades.
Frist made his announcement as several potential GOP hopefuls were arriving in Miami for the annual meeting of the Republican Governors' Association. Among them were Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., planned private meetings with governors today.
The roster of potential candidates in both parties is long in the first White House campaign since 1928 in which neither an incumbent president nor vice president is in the early mix of candidates.
In a statement, Frist said he will "return to my professional roots as a healer."
His decision capped a 12-year career in politics marked by a speedy rise to Senate power.
His launching pad was the chairmanship of the Senate GOP campaign committee, which gained seats under his direction in 2002. That positioned him to become majority leader when Sen. Trent Lott was accused of making racially insensitive comments and stepped aside.
Information from the Associated Press and Washington Post was used in this report.
A look at some of the potential candidates for president in 2008.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas
Sen. John McCain of Arizona
Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts
Gov. George Pataki of New York
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois
Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware
Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut
Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico
Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa