September 27, 2010

Haley Barbour: GOP Kingmaker or Candidate?

I hope you take a moment to read this interesting article about Mississippi’s (my) governor, Haley Barbour. It was in Time Magazine last week and highlighted some of the Governor’s qualities and mused at his potential run for President in 2012. I have met Governor Barbour several times and needless to say, I’m a huge fan. He is very down to earth and easy to have a conversation with. Recently, he spoke at a reception in DC at the Newseum to honor the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He teared up just talking about the coast and the devastation that he saw. We are still dealing with aftermath of Katrina, but if not for Governor Barbour, we would be much more behind.

So will he run?

“In the brazen Tea Party era, Barbour can seem a bit old-fashioned. Some of his own associates say he lacks flesh-and-blood passion in his public performances. Unlike Reagan, Barbour only infrequently mentions real people to make his points. His speeches are spiked with quick humor and biting rhetoric, but he rarely inspires emotion or fervor. And though he hails from the buckle of the Bible Belt, he is an unabashed big-tent, Big Business Republican who has never drunk very deeply from the social-values trough. Democrats from Donna Brazile to David Axelrod consider him cooperative and, in some cases, a friend. And Barbour would return the compliment. Several decades in Washington taught him never to make an enemy he doesn't need.

Barbour's status as an elder statesman from something of a bygone era in a restive party adds to doubts about whether he will run. More than that, he has commented to friends that as he ages, his family is a priority, and Marsha, his wife of some 40 years (they have two sons and four grandchildren), has never been particularly enthusiastic about the high-flying lifestyle her husband has led in politics. He is visibly overweight and shuffles as much as he walks. (He once owned a piece of one of Washington's more artery-clogging steak houses.)

As said by the Gov himself: "If I run for President, what you see is what you get. And I am from Mississippi. I do have a Southern accent," he said. "I was a lobbyist — and a pretty damned good one... The next President of the United States, on Jan. 21, 2013, is going to start lobbying. He's going to be lobbying Congress. He's going to be lobbying other countries. He's going to be lobbying the business community. He's going to be lobbying the labor unions and the governors, because that's what Presidents do, and I feel like it's an advantage for me to have the chance to do that."

And then he added, "As far as Southern accent and Mississippi, the country may be looking for the anti-Obama in 2012. Don't know. Could be."

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