August 21, 2010

ALL HAIL HALEY:

The most powerful Republican in politics (JIM VANDEHE; ANDY BARR; KENNETH P. VOGEL, 8/20/10, Politico)

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is the most powerful Republican in American politics — at least for the next three months. [...]

It’s not just because he controls the RGA kitty but, rather, because he has close relationships with everyone who matters in national GOP politics — operatives like Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and other top Republicans running or raising cash for a network of outside political groups. Together, these groups are essential to Republican hopes of regaining power because Democrats are cleaning their clocks through more traditional fundraising efforts. [...]

Barbour’s stature has grown at the expense of cash-strapped, gaffe-prone Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, and he has funded his various efforts by tapping into broad dissatisfaction with Steele — at one point, Barbour complained to donors that he needs to raise even more money because Steele is stumbling. This past quarter, Barbour’s RGA actually matched the Republican National Committee in fundraising, something that hasn’t been done in at least five years and probably much longer, according to a POLITICO analysis.

“He’s clearly the top political strategist and political operative of his generation,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former RNC chief of staff. “He is without peer when he is raising money.”


The Case for Haley Barbour in the 2012 Presidential Race: Could the Mississippi governor and good old boy carry Republicans to the White House? (Cameron Lynch, March 30, 2010, US News)
[S]imply to dismiss Barbour as a shrewd campaign tactician cheapens his substantive contributions to Mississippi as the state's chief executive. Barbour receives widespread credit for his crisis management skills during the disastrous hurricanes that traumatized his state in 2005. I spoke with one Magnolia State native who deadpanned: "Mississippi got hit worse than Louisiana. The difference was that Mississippi had Haley." Throughout his tenure in Jackson, Barbour has established an impressive record, even with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

Barbour is most comfortable as the backslapping, bourbon sipping, good old boy, and his critics quickly pan him as just that. Engage him in a policy firefight, however, and you'll wish you hadn't. Barbour converses fluently about intricacies of Democratic healthcare reform, and the ramifications of proposed climate change legislation. Barbour works a room with the swagger of a riverboat gambler, but beneath that easy exterior whirls a policy mind that even think-tank wonks can envy.

At a time when many pundits insist that Tea Partiers, libertarians and social conservatives are splintering the GOP, Barbour's political strength is his broad appeal to Republicans of all stripes. Social conservatives admire his pro-life, pro-family values message. Fiscal conservatives revel in his swashbuckling anti-Washington rants. Good-government fans value his executive experience as GOP chairman, businessman, and governor. Country club Republicans like him because, frankly, at heart, he's one of them. All of these attributes, however, do not a successful presidential candidate make.

Barbour has some considerable obstacles to overcome if he is to challenge Romney, Pawlenty, and others. He must combat his "Beltway Barbour" moniker at a time when American voters couldn't be more frustrated with Washington or displeased with their political parties. President Obama's uproar over registered lobbyist participation in the 2008 presidential election (a tactic he will undoubtedly resurrect in the 2012 race) certainly wouldn't favor a Barbour candidacy.

Ultimately, demographics and geography may prove to be Barbour's greatest impediment. Americans perceive the Republican Party to be too white, too male, and too southern. In other words, too much like Haley.


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Posted by Orrin Judd at August 21, 2010 8:57 AM
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