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Posted at 1:36 PM ET, 12/22/2010

What do conservatives think about Haley Barbour?

By Jennifer Rubin

I did a very unscientific poll, contacting more than 20 conservatives -- think tank types, journalists, federal office holders, former government officials, congressional advisors, pollsters and campaign operatives -- with a simple question: "Is Haley Barbour through?" None of those I talked to has signed up with a 2012 presidential contender.

The head count: Ten said yes. Eleven said no. And three said some variation of "I thought Barbour was through before this even began." The answers did not fit a neat pattern. There were office holders on both sides, social and fiscal conservatives on both sides, and Beltway journalists on both sides.

The no answers suggested that this would all blow over. One respondent offered, "I say he's not through because of this latest stuff, but I also think he won't run." Another told me, "He's not through. It's way too early and anything can happen, but this will certainly be a topic of discussion for two years should he decide to run." Peter Robinson, a former speech writer for Ronald Reagan, made the point that Barbour was defending the Citizens Councils only in his home town of Yazoo City, which was free of Klan influence, and praised Barbour for his positive record on race, education and other issues.

The yes answers were quite emphatic. A sampling:

  • "Yes. As well he should be."
  • "Yes (though, I admit, that I sure hope so: what worse candidate to run against Obama than someone who would easily be depicted, fairly or unfairly, as a racist redneck?)"
  • "His presidential ambitions are [through]. It would be one thing if he was running against someone other than Obama, but... He will remain a prominent voice in the party (which is where we needed him anyway)."
  • "The odds of a former lobbyist with a Southern accent winning the nomination to take on the nation's first black president were already between slim and none. And slim may have just left town."
  • "This is the tip of the iceberg. Everyone loves him and respects him in Republican circles so all that is discussed is his brilliant political mind, engaging personality, and his success as governor of Mississippi. Frankly, we don't want to say anything bad about Haley. That dynamic has masked a lot of issues that don't play well in presidential politics and you saw some of that this week. He'll never get a fair shake on racial issues as a conservative Republican from Mississippi. I doubt Haley will end up running so in a sense, it's over before it started."

As to those who thought he didn't have much of a chance anyway, they offered these observations:

  • "I thought Barbour was through before this even began. As much as I think he's a good governor and would be a good president, I didn't give Barbour 2012 much credence. It plays too much into the GOP stereotype of a Southern-dominated party. Going against a black president would be a very high hurdle to leap."
  • "Haley is no more or less through than he was before the incident--which of course was a concocted faux racist incident.... His bigger problem is that as a leading lobbyist he has been part of a thousand deals -- which, when revealed will not play well with the Tea Party (plus more) primary voters. But every successful conservative politician from Goldwater to Reagan to Newt has been called a racist. It is, in fact, what you are called BECAUSE you are a successful conservative politician -- and will not materially effect a primary campaign (although it may be a small part of the electability factor)."

So there you have it. It was not as definitive a reaction as I expected, but revealing nevertheless. One thing that did emerge: Nearly all of the respondents praised Barbour as a governor and former head of the Republican Governors' Association, suggesting that while his presidential prospects have dimmed, he surely will continue to play a role in the Republican Party.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 22, 2010; 1:36 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Comments

I have made the point before that Barbour was never running for the top spot in the first place. He would certainly bring balance to the ticket given the right person on top, and would be valued there for his fund rasing ability.

However Mississippi is the consensus worst state in the union on so many barometers that he would never have had a serious shot at top billing, nor would any other Mississippi politician.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 22, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

He's a big southern dummy with a dog whistle.

Posted by: danw1 | December 22, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree with 54465446.

Mississippi ranks worst among the states in infant mortality, percent of adults with at least a high school diploma, and individual poverty. Whatever else Governor Barbour may have done, his state wallows at or near the bottom on many measures of socio-economic well-being.

That said, no prominent Republican politician would publically count Governor Barbour out because, as The Weekly Standard article mentions, he is a genius at creating political organizations and raising money. The GOP will need both in abundance in 2012 and it’s best not to bite the nose of one who can deliver.

BTW, Barbour thrives on big gummint. If the GOP is serious about starving the beast, they will have to look elsewhere.

Posted by: MsJS | December 22, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Barbour has all the qualifications to make a good president other than foreign policy experience. He's shrewd and principled with a strong conservative record.

However, Barbour would be an awful candidate. Running against the first president of mixed African and American ancestry, he would be easy to stereotype falsely as a bigoted Southern redneck. The Dems are going to play the race card against whoever runs, but Republicans shouldn't make their job easier.

Republicans need to think of who can win Ohio. The winner of that state will be the next president. Candidates like Palin, Huckabee, Gingrich and Barbour are non-starters. Republicans, don't bail Obama out by nominating a weak candidate.

Posted by: eoniii | December 22, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

"Peter Robinson, a former speech writer for Ronald Reagan, made the point that Barbour was defending the Citizens Councils only in his home town of Yazoo City, which was free of Klan influence, and praised Barbour for his positive record on race, education and other issues."

I'm going to take a wild guess and say Mr. Peter Robinson has not been down to Mississippi in some time...

Posted by: oda155 | December 22, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

For every two votes that Barbour would cost the GOP, he'd cost the Democrats three.

The dog-whistle effect works not only with bad stuff. People hear good stuff that liberals are deaf to also.

Posted by: blasmaic | December 22, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: MsJS | December 22, 2010 3:16 PM
Mississippi ranks worst among the states in infant mortality, percent of adults with at least a high school diploma, and individual poverty. Whatever else Governor Barbour may have done, his state wallows at or near the bottom on many measures of socio-economic well-being.
=========================================

Funny but I seem to remember WASHINGTON DC 'wallowing at the bottom' (BELOW MISSISSIPPI even) in school performance yet that never stops the beltway crowd from running for office !

Posted by: killerm1 | December 22, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

In addition to Barbour, somewhere in this country there are 60 million other racists who would not weep if one of them did Obama in.

Posted by: slipuvalad | December 22, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

The democrats have completely lost their minds - this is all nonsense

The democrats suffered a horrile defeat and they are desperate to run around like children shouting "we won"

These are not adults here - they are irresponsible immature people who should be barred from every government building in the country. One thing is sure: the democrats should NEVER be allowed to borrow any money in the name of the government ever again.

.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 22, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

So it looks like Haley Barbour is a non-starter. Check. The real questions is what other racist, biggoted, backward, homophobic, white-supremacist, hypocrital, illogical, irrational, religious crackpot and intellectual lightweight the GOP will turn to?

Posted by: October10S | December 22, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Will Haley Barbour's comments on civil rights era nix his presidential run? VOTE

http://www.youpolls.com/default.asp

...

Posted by: usadblake | December 22, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

"However, Barbour would be an awful candidate. Running against the first president of mixed African and American ancestry"

That's how subconscious racism works. The writer divides people of (recent) African descent from "Americans" - despite the fact that Africans arrived here much earlier than many European Americans - the Irish, German, Italians, Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians, Armenians, Lebanese, Chinese, Japanese, etc.

It's quite unintentional, and utterly revealing - why some people persist in believing that Obama is not "one of us".

It take work to root out these subconscious preconceptions, and Barbour's remarks demonstrate that he doesn't think it work the effort. He may bear no animosity towards blacks, but he doesn't care enough about them to consider how their experience is fundamentally different from his own.

Posted by: j3hess | December 22, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

With Barbour's political demise that is one fewer GOP horror we will have to contend with when the party starts squabbling over which of their unqualified candidates they will put forth.

Posted by: 85edwardearthlinknet | December 22, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Killerm1...

Don't you know that the District of Columbia is not a state, and can't run for any federal office?

You have never, ever, ever, ever heard of anyone running for any federal office from DC.

From Virginia and Maryland, yes. DC, no.

Posted by: taroya | December 22, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I hope that he's through. I agree that he should have been through before he even began. My GOD, what trash this man is! I'd bet there are some very interesting comments & events out there, floating around, when Haley was being a "good ol' boy" when in the company of redneck Southern racists, & just other plain racists, within the GOP.
The GOP wants to hang on to all those White Anglo Saxon, some Hispanic, some other minority conservative voters in 33 states that are more white than not, & batter immigrants, African-Americans, Hispanics, etc., & still believe they can win the Presidency.
Now, if, on the other hand, they do, then the racists and immigrant haters in those 33 states will have triumphed ... & taken the U.S. backwards in our ability to lead the world. Haley Barbour is a racist @ heart, no matter what the GOP moderates say.
I hope there ARE more examples out there, to force him into a defensive corner he can NEVER extricate himself from. I hope they come out in a veritable trickle that just goes on & on for another month or two. And then, I hope that the same leaks emerge on some of the other White Southern Republicans.
There are frankly resurging racist & immigrant hating sentiments emerging from the South, & white west. But, if these men & women actually think they're going to beat demographics, they're sadly wrong. And, frankly, not all seats that may presumptively go to Republicans are necessarily going to produce rednecks like Barber, DeMint, Kyl, McCain, etc.
Barbour's just the latest white guy loser in the Republican Party. It will be interesting to see how they find a "leader" among so many losers. What a disgusting Party the GOP really, really is.
A pack of the biggest phonies & hypocrites we've seen in decades.

Posted by: zennheadd | December 22, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Enough, you who are painting all white Mississippians with the same broad brush of racism. Isn't that in itself racism and stereotyping at it's most sickening level of prominence?

It is sad that you will perpetrate the very sin you accuse others of in order to promote your agenda.

By the way, I am white, I voted for our President and I hail from the Great State of Mississippi and have lived in the DC metro area for the past 30 years. Confused? Or corrupt?

Posted by: Letssellsomething | December 22, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I just don't know why anybody who is part of the ruling class of places like South Carolina or Mississippi should be even faintly considered for president. Mississippi and South Carolina are backwaters with horrible education systems, massive entrenched poverty and a wealthy white oligarchy that runs the state's government primarily to enrich itself. That may be what Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch envision for America, but it's not what most Americans want their country to be.

Posted by: tboyer33 | December 22, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

@killerm, I was citing the most recently available data from the Statistical Abstract of the United States.
http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0228.pdf

For the record, a larger percentage of DC residents have at least a high school diploma (85.7%) than is the case in Mississippi (78.5%).

Texas and Louisiana are the only other states besides Mississippi in which fewer than 80% of its adult citizens finished high school.

The internet makes it easy to check facts.

As to the 'beltway crowd' that you sneer at, Haley Barbour was as Beltway as they come with his immensely successful lobbying firm during the 1990s.

So if you're anti-Beltway, you have to be anti-Barbour.

Posted by: MsJS | December 22, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

"Enough, you who are painting all white Mississippians with the same broad brush of racism. Isn't that in itself racism and stereotyping at it's most sickening level of prominence? "
*****

I quite agree, but when I went looking for the evidence in the posts, I came up short.

Some referred to Mississippi as a statistical aggregate - low in education, high in poverty, etc.

Some referred to racist Southern rednecks - which is stereotyping. But people who match the stereotype exist, and the GOP broadly construed does seem to seek their support. However, there are real Atticus Finches out there also, and it is not at all bright to associate a Southern accent with any stereotypes about intelligence or politics.

Posted by: j3hess | December 22, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

"However, Barbour would be an awful candidate. Running against the first president of mixed African and American ancestry"

That's how subconscious racism works. The writer divides people of (recent) African descent from "Americans" - despite the fact that Africans arrived here much earlier than many European Americans - the Irish, German, Italians, Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians, Armenians, Lebanese, Chinese, Japanese, etc.

It's quite unintentional, and utterly revealing - why some people persist in believing that Obama is not "one of us".

It take work to root out these subconscious preconceptions, and Barbour's remarks demonstrate that he doesn't think it work the effort. He may bear no animosity towards blacks, but he doesn't care enough about them to consider how their experience is fundamentally different from his own.

Posted by: j3hess
-------------------------
Are you accusing me of racism? Obama's father was African -- not "African-American" but a citizen of an actual African country, Kenya. Obama's mother was an American citizen. Describing Obama as "the first president of mixed African and American ancestry" is precise and uncontroversial, in no way indicative of "racism". It's more precise than the conventional description of Obama as "African-American", which is literally true but which has the connotation of being descended from black Americans, which is not the case, of course.

Posted by: eoniii | December 22, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Are you accusing me of racism? Obama's father was African -- not "African-American" but a citizen of an actual African country, Kenya. Obama's mother was an American citizen. Describing Obama as "the first president of mixed African and American ancestry" is precise and uncontroversial, in no way indicative of "racism".
Posted by: eoniii
***

You are right, I reacted without thinking precisely enough about what you said. In fact he as adopted an African-American identity so well that it is how I think of him.

I apologize to you.

Posted by: j3hess | December 22, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

No problem. Thanks.

Posted by: eoniii | December 22, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm still trying to figure out what the fuss is about here. He said that if the Klan had shown up in his town, local businesses would have kicked their butts the hell out. Is that, like, controversial or something? Sure, southern Democrats would have been outraged at the time, since they were big on racism and supported the Klan, but besides that -- would someone please explain the issue?

Posted by: Larry3435 | December 22, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

I just don't know why anybody who is part of the ruling class of a place like Chicago should be even faintly considered for president. Chicago is a backwater (compared to New York) with a horrible education system, massive entrenched poverty and a wealthy white oligarchy that runs the city's government primarily to enrich itself. That may be what Keith Olbermann and Rachel Madow envision for America, but it's not what most Americans want their country to be.

Posted by: Jeroboam | December 22, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

A correction: It has been established through newspaper accounts, including those from the White Citizens Council journal, that there was a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Yazoo City. It and the Council feuded over who would lead opposition to desegregation.

Posted by: query0 | December 23, 2010 4:07 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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