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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Haley Barbour's run

By Jennifer Rubin

Haley Barbour is due to speak here in Herzliya on Wednesday. But his supporters and surrogates are already circulating columns explaining that really there is no "Southern problem."

This is understandable in light of the firestorm following comments he made about Yazoo City and the civil rights era for a story in the Weekly Standard. But it is also a very bad idea. This is the proverbial "Don't think about pink elephants" problem. This not only reinforces the impression that this really is a problem; it comes across as defensive. The answer to whatever problem a candidate has (e.g. RomneyCare for Mitt Romney; the "too nice" rap on Tim Pawlenty) is not to holler, "I do NOT have a problem," but to demonstrate in word or deed why that problem is a non-problem or a non-fatal one. Pawlenty's staff did not come forward to announce: "He is NOT too nice." Instead, Pawlenty set about to emphasize his tough decision-making as governor and amp up his delivery and energy in speeches.

Moreover, in some sense the "Southern problem" is insoluble. Either primary voters outside of the South accept a candidate (e.g. Bill Clinton) or they don't (e.g. Mike Huckabee in 2008). However, I would suggest there is a bigger challenge for Barbour.

Barbour, someone joked the other day, should be appointed RNC chairman for life. Indeed, he is a masterful organizer and fundraiser, the ultimate Republican insider. And that is also his greatest weakness. Most voters, even Republican primary voters, have no idea what he's done as governor. They think of him as the RNC chairman or the Republican Governor Association's chief. In an era in which lobbyists, crony capitalism and Beltway pols are out of fashion in the GOP (and ironically, perfectly acceptable in the Democratic Party) Barbour, rather than make his opening pitch, "I do not have a Southern problem," would do well to explain what he stands for and why as governor his record and his ideas make him uniquely qualified.

It's not clear Barbour is running yet, but it is very clear he has reached the "seriously considering" it phase. Tomorrow, we'll see if he has a compelling, positive message that can capture the imagination of establishment Republicans and Tea Partyers who populate the Republican primary electorate.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 8, 2011; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Next: Gen. Jones does it again


He can't even use his handling of Katrina. It will just make people say that it wasn't a serious problem in Mississippi.

Posted by: IsraelP | February 8, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Jesus H Christ Jennifer,pick someone you support and go with that. Everyday it's someone different,and you're looking like a nitwit. Jeb has the best chance in my opinion,but 5446 says he has no chance. Fine. So pick someone to support,and go with him/her for the duration. don't be Desperately Looking for a Candidate,at least every day.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 8, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Surrounded by red state yahoos, I can tell you that to them Haley Barbour's views on history and civil rights are not a problem at all.

Posted by: jiji1 | February 8, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

An Israeli company has a wholly owned subsidiary that manufactures military drones in Mississippi. The governments of both Israel and Mississippi are on record as wanting to strengthen economic ties.

Barbour's trip isn't about presidential politics, it's about bringing Israeli military investment, which is partially paid for with U.S. tax dollars, to Mississippi.

Rather clever, actually.

I'm not saying he won't run, but why would he make a significant presidential-sounding speech at a foreign conference that most of the U.S. media isn't covering?

Posted by: MsJS | February 8, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

A fat, deep south politician is never going to be president. It reminds people of Bull Conner or Boss Hogg. Whether that is fair or not is irrelevant.

Posted by: gord2 | February 8, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Republicans must nominate someone who can beat Obama. The test should be, "Can this guy carry Ohio?" If not, as in Barbour's case, move on to the next candidate. The only potential candidates I see as potential winners in the general election are Romney, Thune, Daniels and Pawlenty. Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich, Barbour, Paul and Santorum -- forget about it.

Posted by: eoniii | February 8, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer Rubin can choose to be obtuse, or even ignorant. But she needn't foist that ignorance off on her readers.

Haley Barbour doesn't have a "Southern problem." He has a racism problem.

Posted by: jade_7243 | February 8, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

I think Barbour could build a successful campaign around his idea that "segregation was not that bad."

He should launch his campaign in Philadelphia, Miss.

Posted by: motorfriend | February 8, 2011 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Gov. Haley Barbour and Rep. Michelle Backman would make the perfect running duo in 2012. The both share the same historical philosophy of America.

Posted by: onyx592 | February 8, 2011 11:26 PM | Report abuse

"In an era in which lobbyists, crony capitalism and Beltway pols are out of fashion in the GOP (and ironically, perfectly acceptable in the Democratic Party)..."

I wonder what parallel universe Ms. Rubin is living in to be able to say this with a straight face. The GOP-corporate-capitalist-cronyism nexus is practically a given these days. Or did I hallucinate that whole GOP/insurance industry crusade against the Dems' health care proposal?

Really, if Hiatt is going to populate this once reputable paper with neocons, at least he could find some with better rhetorical sleight-of-hand. Next she's going to tell us how Republicans are always fighting for the poor. It's just like Fox still using the laughable "Fair and Balanced" logo a year after they donated a million dollars to the GOP. Memo to Mr. Hiatt: the POST'S readers are not the morons that watch Fox.

Posted by: B2O2 | February 9, 2011 12:10 AM | Report abuse

Apparently American primaries start in Israel. If not, they certainly should seeing how our pathetic, craven politicians pander to Israel.

Posted by: ardestani | February 9, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

If you examine our relationship with Israel since 1948, you can easily see that the Israelis killed American citizens and got way with it. The Israelis spied on America repeatedly and got away with it. The Israelis sold our top military and industrial technology to Communist China and got away with it.

No American political figure can condemn Israel for anything; Israel is untouchable in America. The Israeli lobby has tamed and controlled our Congress and our mainstream media as well. Our Congress is more loyal to Israel than the Israeli Knesset and our media is friendlier to Israel than the Israeli media. The Israeli total control of America’s foreign policy is well known fact that not even the Israelis bother to deny it. No one has framed the power of the Israeli lobby over America better than the ex Israeli Prime Minister, Arial Sharon:

"Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that... I want to tell you something very clear: Don't worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it." --Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (speaking to Shimon Peres, as reported on Israel Radio [in Hebrew, Kol Yisrael], 3 October 2001)

Posted by: ardestani | February 9, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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