Besides Speaker of the House John Boehner, it would be hard to find another Republican who had a better night on November 2nd than Haley Barbour did as the head of the Republican Governors Association (RGA). Under Barbour’s guidance, the RGA invested millions of dollars in races all across the county and celebrated many victories.
The results were impressive, and not just limited to gubernatorial victories either. While the RGA saw every Republican governor who sought re-election win, it also knocked off two incumbents and picked up the governorships in eight of ten open swing states. The RGA was also credited for some of the congressional pickups since it invested so heavily in multiple states.
After the results from the 2010 elections came in, Barbour stated, “Republican control of the majority of 2012 swing states is a major roadblock to the president’s re-election and a repudiation of his policies. These states are the bellwethers of the nation, and they’ve sent a firm message to Washington that America wants smaller government and more freedom.”
It’s also apparent that Barbour wants to be the one to benefit from the roadblock that RGA was able to erect. Last Friday, CNN’s Peter Hamby, reported that Barbour is moving forward with a 2012 presidential campaign. A source close to Barbour told Hamby, “We have definitely shifted gears, there is no question about that. He’s running until he says he’s not.”
That move suddenly makes Barbour one of the more committed 2012 candidates. While nobody doubts his political acumen, fundraising ability, and wealth of connections across the county, his pathway to the Republican nomination is currently not clear. While he has headlined a handful of events in Iowa over the past year, the First-In-The-Nation Caucus state could prove difficult for him.
In April of 2009, when Barbour was the keynote speaker for a Republican Party of Iowa event, he preached of the necessity for the GOP to be an inclusive, or in other words, a big tent party. In his speech, Barbour told the audience that pro-life people need to vote for pro-choice candidates, and pro-choice people need to vote for pro-life candidates.
In other words, despite the issue that may motivate you to vote Republican, in the case of the life issue, you should just bite your tongue and vote Republican regardless of where the particular Republican candidate stands.
Barbour made these comments despite his pro-life achievements as governor, including signing into law eight pro-life pieces of legislation, such as a conscience exception bill, which allows health care providers to opt out of performing abortions without fear of retribution. American’s United for Life has deemed Mississippi the “safest place in the nation for an unborn child.” The words he chose to speak in April of 2009 will not play well with caucus goers. Despite his record, Barbour is likely tainted by his Iowa abortion comments. Persuading Iowa’s socially conservative caucus goers that he’s their friend, not their foe, is going to be difficult, but not necessarily impossible obstacle to overcome.
The potential field of candidates in 2012 is much different the 2008 presidential slate. While many might discount Barbour’s chances to be the 2012 Republican nominee, it’s safe to say that most people would have ranked him ahead of several 2008 candidates like Sam Brownback, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Tommy Thompson, Duncan Hunter, and even Mike Huckabee.
Barbour brings to the table a much more impressive skill set than those 2008 candidates and more than some of the potential 2012 names as well. To simply blow off Barbour out of the gate because of something he said in a speech two years ago, his age, or even his thick southern accent, would be a mistake.
Like any electorate, Iowans might have some pre-conceived notions about him or any other candidate, but they are not about to ignore someone who was instrumental in the 1994 and 2010 Republican revolutions. If he takes Iowa seriously, Iowans will take Barbour seriously.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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