But Frist began to lose some of that aura after a series of politically damaging events, including an on-going investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into allegations of insider trading in his sale of shares in HCA Inc., a hospital chain founded by his father and his brother. The sale was completed just weeks before the company issued an earnings estimate that fell short of analysts' expectations, causing a drop in HCA's stock price.
Frist has also faced questions about his role on the board of a charitable foundation that paid consulting fees to some of his close political allies.
Last year, Frist injected himself into the legislative drama over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged and bedridden Florida woman who died after her husband decided to have her feeding tube removed, despite congressional efforts to reverse his decision.
After viewing a videotape of the woman, Frist, a surgeon, publicly questioned the diagnosis that said Schiavo would never recover. That action was widely viewed as a sop to religious conservatives. An autopsy later proved Frist wrong.
Also, Frist has been drawn into caustic confrontations with Senate Democrats since being elevated to majority leader in 2002, reinforcing the view of him as an intense partisan. Although friends and colleagues say he never violated his principles, they note that the job of majority leader obscured what they say is Frist's true character. Moreover, he was politically weakened when Republicans lost control of both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections earlier this month.
But, wait! It wasn't his own screw-ups that led Frist to conclude that the woodpeckers have done some real damage to whatever presidential timber he ever was. No, it was the Bible that led the way to Frist's enlightenment:
"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."
God, the pollster, told Frist: "Bag it, baby. You can't win."