During the past several days, speculation among pundits and others has intensified over who will be the likely Republican nominee to face President Obama in the 2012 presidential election. Newt Gingrich has been on the speaker’s circuit for months, and he has been appearing regularly on Fox News for over two years. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has of late become much more active in his media appearances and in his public pronouncements; and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is clearly running for president. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has his own TV show, while former Governor Sarah Palin has been a contributor on Fox News and recently appeared on Jay Leno’s late-night show, where she gave a stand-up monologue, prompting speculation that she would launch a TV show of her own.
A recent article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL speculated that conservative Texas Governor Rick Perry, fresh from an impressive primary victory in his race for re-election over Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, will surely be called upon to consider a presidential run in 2012 if he wins re-election in November. And this weekend, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah opined that Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Haley Barbour, the term-limited Governor of Mississippi and Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, would make “great vice-presidential candidates”.
In truth, it is probable that Perry, Daniels, and Barbour have all contracted some form of “Potomac Fever”, and none of the three would care to evoke the memory of President Calvin (“silent Cal”) Coolidge in the 1920s who, when asked if he would be a candidate for a second term, said:
“I do not choose to run for President in 1928.”
All of those named above have distinguished themselves in the public arena and are qualified to run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Still, based not on sentiment but strictly on the evidence, I believe that the dark horse in the race is Haley Barbour – if he reaches for the brass ring. There are several reasons why I have reached this conclusion:
1. Barbour’s record of accomplishments as Governor of Mississippi and his demonstrated ability to govern are impressive, and he has rightly received widespread praise for his steady and effective performance as Governor during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During his tenure as Governor, he has been effective in holding the line on taxes and in “getting things done” in the education and Medicaid fields without raising taxes, despite the fact that he has had to deal with a House of Representatives dominated by Democrats. More recently, under the radar, he is effectively dealing with a severe shortfall in his state’s revenues due to the great recession. In a time when Americans are genuinely concerned about the economic well being of the nation, Republicans will be looking for an effective leader who knows how to govern and will stop the nation’s drift toward socialism.
2. As a former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Chairman of the national Republican Governor’s Association, Barbour has a national presence and is extremely well thought of among rank and file Republicans. While Chairman of the RNC, he worked effectively with Congressional Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, to implement their “contract for America”, which resulted in a Republican takeover of the U. S. House of Representatives. More recently, as Chairman of the RGA, he has received praise for effectively promoting (and supporting with RGA dollars) a Republican resurgence, resulting in the election of Republican Governors in Virginia and New Jersey. Moreover, he has shown himself to be extremely knowledgeable on the issues, and, perhaps better than any other potential Republican presidential candidate on the scene, able to effectively communicate the Republican point of view in such a way that ordinary people can understand the message.
3. Haley is 62 years old, the perfect age to run for president.
4. Significantly, Governor Barbour has a unique ability that none of the other potential candidates have – that is a populist yet traditional ability to appeal to both wings of the Republican Party: the so-called “economic Republicans” and the “social Republicans” as well. As a former political operative of the Reagan White House and as a Deep South person of faith, he will have no trouble coming across as sincere to Republicans whose first priorities are the social issues and the preservation of traditional American values. On the other hand, he never practiced the politics of exclusion during his tenure with the RNC. Likewise, Barbour should be totally acceptable to economic Republicans who want low taxes, and are concerned about the economy and fiscal responsibility in government. His record of accomplishment as a fiscal conservative is extremely attractive, if not impeccable.
5. Finally, Haley Barbour is a “party person” and is one of our own. He began his work within the Republican Party as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Republican Party and ultimately became Chairman of the RNC. Republicans nationally know Haley Barbour and like him.
Every potential candidate for president has some baggage. It could be argued that Governor Barbour cannot be elected president because he comes from a Deep South state with a troubled history of civil rights problems; and because he will be running against an African American incumbent. It could likewise be argued that his pronounced southern accent might also be a problem. If he does run for president, Haley will be required to face these and other such issues in a series of party primaries throughout the land. My bet, based on past performance, is that if he can raise the necessary funds to compete on equal terms with the other candidates, he will acquit himself quite well.
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