One of the most overlooked candidates in the young Iowa caucus cycle is Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who made several stops across Iowa on Monday and Tuesday. Barbour spoke at the Woodbury County GOP dinner on Monday night before speaking to the Iowa Federation of Republican Women at the State Capitol in Des Moines and then keynoting a fundraising dinner in Davenport for the Republican Party of Iowa on Tuesday.
The Mississippi Governor also gave a policy filled speech to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce on Monday, and he travels to California later this week. Barbour’s swing through the state in the past 24 hours allowed him to hit three of the state’s five media markets, a sign that Barbour is looking and acting more and more like a potential 2012 presidential candidate.
Barbour, who might have the most accomplished resume of the entire Republican field, has been overlooked mainly because the media and political pundits seems to think that putting him on a debate stage next to President Obama would be a terrible mistake for Republicans. Sure his distinct southern drawl grabs your attention, but it’s not just Barbour who is going to have that problem.
Anyone Republicans select as their nominee will struggle with how they visually and stylistically match up against President Obama. Unlike the 2008 campaign when style seemed to matter more than substance, 2012 is likely going to be about issues and a referendum on the policies of the Obama administration.
In his speech in Davenport last night, Barbour called the 2010 elections a “guidepost” for 2012. “The 2010 elections were about issues and public policy. Republicans do well when that’s the case,” he said. Barbour then blasted President Obama’s appetite for growing government.
Barbour said, “President Obama’s new budget would increase federal spending to $3.8 trillion next year – and increase the federal deficit to a mind-boggling $1.6 trillion. That deficit alone is bigger than Bill Clinton’s entire budget for the whole federal government back in 1997”
“President Obama has unlimited faith in an unlimited government,” Barbour told the audience of 120 or so. He then discussed the need to cut taxes in an effort to put more money into the private economy. “This Administration and its Congress have pursued policy after policy that create economic uncertainty or directly hurt the economy- explosive spending, skyrocketing deficits, gargantuan debt, calls for record tax increases, government-run health care, out-of-control regulations and anti-growth energy policy.”
When explaining to the audience why President Obama and his Administration have acted in this manner, Barbour quipped, “Think about it: is there anybody in the current Administration who ever signed the front side of a paycheck?”
Barbour kept his remarks focused on fiscal issues at his Davenport stop. Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn did mention that Mississippi had been named the best place in the country for an unborn child under Barbour when introducing him.
When TheIowaRepublican.com asked Barbour about not mentioning social issues after the event, he said, “My first year as Governor, we had a pro-life package of six pro-life bills. The Democratic legislature passed all six of them, and the American United for Life named me their “Man of the Year,” and the state of Mississippi is the safest state in the nation for an unborn child. I’m very proud of that, and I’m willing to put up my social conservative bona fides against anybody.”
Barbour’s stop in the Quad Cities last night might have been the most important of his recent stops in the state. In the 2008 caucuses, Mitt Romney won Scott County with 31 percent of the vote, Mike Huckabee finished second with 22 percent. While it is apparent that Romney is preparing for another run, what’s not clear is whether or not he will compete hard in Iowa this time around. Not only did Romney do well in Scott County, but he also won a number of counties in that part of the state by substantial margins.
After talking to a number of Romney’s 2008 supporters before last night’s event, they made it very clear that Romney is not going to receive their vote unless he campaigns hard in Iowa and admits that the Massachusetts healthcare program that he signed into law was a mistake. They also admitted that they are all currently looking for a candidate to support.
Barbour’s speech in Davenport last night should help him make inroads in with those former Romney supporters. For all the presidential activity that has taken place in Iowa this spring, eastern Iowa has been ignored. The last potential presidential candidate to make a stop in the Quad Cities what former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and that was in mid-December. Barbour is the only candidate who’s made an appearance in the area this year.
Last night’s event provided Barbour with a great opportunity to make inroads with the GOP stalwarts in an important county. By all accounts, Scott County Republicans came away impressed with Barbour. His conversational tone and ability to work members of the audience into his remarks by name was impressive. People also liked that he got his start in Republican politics at the local county level. There is no doubt that Barbour made a good first impression, but he’s going to need to continue to cultivate these relationships before anyone signs on as a supporter.
Below is a video of Barbour talking with the media after the Davenport event.
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