Haley Barbour's Inner Circle
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has spent months insisting that the 2012 presidential race is a long way off and that he is squarely focused on his current job, his chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association and the 2010 midterm elections.
But, it's been clear for quite some time that Barbour is eyeing a run for president and has already begun to plan for that possibility.
The latest evidence of Barbour's presidential aspirations? A direct mail piece into Iowa -- first reported by Politico's Jmart -- giving Hawkeye State Republicans a first glimpse at the governor from Mississippi.
As we have said and written for a very long time, no politician goes to Iowa by accident -- and that goes double for sending direct mail into Iowa. The only -- and we can't emphasize this strongly enough -- reason that Barbour is mailing Iowa Republicans is because he is thinking about running for president.
So, as he thinks about it, who are the people he is relying on to help him make the decision?
Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is perhaps the most plugged-in politician in GOP politics and there are many, many strategists and operatives loyal to him both inside and outside of Washington. And, in conversations with a variety of Republican sources, they, to a person, noted that Barbour keeps in close touch with a large number of operatives.
But, below you'll find the handful of folks on whom he relies most heavily, according to conversations with those close to the governor's political orbit.
(Don't forget to check out our inner circle for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney too. And stay tuned for future 2012 inner circles.)
The Barbour Inner Circle
Henry Barbour: The nephew of the governor is much more than just a family relation. Henry Barbour managed the 2003 governor's race as well as then Mississippi Rep. Chip Pickering's 2002 campaign. He also serves as a Republican National Committeeman from the Magnolia State.
Nick Ayers: Ayers, the current executive director of the RGA, comes out of the world of Georgia politics -- he managed Gov. Sonny Perdue's races -- but has quickly grown close to Barbour.
Don Fierce: Fierce is extremely tight with Barbour personally. He served as director of strategic planning and Congressional affairs at the Republican National Committee when Barbour was chairman in the 1994 cycle and is currently a prominent lobbyist in Washington at Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock.
Jim Perry: Perry, a Mississippi native, served as Barbour's policy director before leaving that post to take a job on Wall Street in 2008. Perry remains Barbour's most trusted policy adviser and will almost certainly play a senior role if a campaign takes shape.
Heather Larrison: Larrison is the executive director of Haley's PAC, which is, not surprisingly, Barbour's leadership PAC. Larrison will be tasked with putting together the early fundraising structure for Barbour -- a critical early bench mark for 2012 candidates.
David Norcross: Norcross, like several others in the Barbour inner circle, has ties with the governor going back to the RNC in the mid 1990s. (Norcross served as RNC general counsel under Barbour.) Norcross has been a Republican National Committeeman from New Jersey for more than two decades, although he announced recently he would step aside from that position.
Lanny Griffith/Ed Rogers: Griffith and Rogers along with Barbour founded the massive lobby shop BGR Group in the early 1990s. Both men have very long histories in campaign politics; Rogers served as deputy campaign manager for George H.W. Bush's 1988 presidential campaign while Griffith served as southern regional political director of that effort. The duo would likely lead the courtship of the D.C.-based political chattering class for Barbour.
Scott Reed: Reed served as executive director of the RNC when Barbour was chairman and went on to manage the 1996 presidential race of former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole (R). He is currently chairman of Chesapeake Enterprises, a consulting shop based in Washington.