Haley Barbour's run
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.
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