Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Haley's Comet.

Unlike Halley's Comet, Haley Barbour has come back around to be a bright light in the political sky a little faster than 75 years after his first go round in '94.

But just like the comet, he never really went away.

I'd been wanting to write a post on Barbour for a few days, but held off to see what the Republican Governor's Association, the organization he chairs as Governor of Mississippi, would raise in the latest cycle.

Well, my procrastination didn't pay off as Newsweek decided to steal a bit of my thunder. Fortunately, we have about the same sized audience. Ha.

Here's a bit from their profile of "The Anti-Obama":
Mr. Fix-It for the GOP is a role Barbour has played with great success in the past. Many Republicans give him as much credit as Newt Gingrich for the Republican "revolution" of 1994, even if his contribution was mostly behind the scenes. He's one of few Republicans whose stature benefited from their handling of Hurricane Katrina. The effectiveness of Barbour's hustle (and his deep Washington connections) is evident to anyone who drives across the Pearl River from the Mississippi Gulf Coast—spiffed up with shiny new commercial ports and open-for-business casinos—into the sad, stagnant desolation of Louisiana. Traveling the country as RGA head, he has bucked up the quavering party, reassuring nervous Republican donors that the GOP's prospects aren't nearly as bad as they seem. The donors apparently like what they're hearing: the RGA starts 2010 with more cash on hand than it spent in all 36 governors' races in 2006, combined.


That's why he thinks Republicans have an opportunity, even now, in what he sees as Democratic overreach. The Obama administration, Barbour says, is presiding over "the biggest lurch to the left in American political history." He believes that the health-care debate has focused the public's attention on the cost of Obama's agenda. "They know that at some point in time you have to pay the piper," says Barbour. "They may not be thinking in terms of the devaluing of the dollar and high interest rates and high inflation. But they just know it's bad."


Turning to the inside of the book's back cover, [Barbour] showed me a short note written in familiar scrawl under the presidential seal. It was dated Nov. 14, 1994, just days after Reagan had announced he was suffering from Alzheimer's and was retreating from public life. It would be the last published note written in Reagan's own hand. It was addressed to the chairman of the Republican Party, congratulating him on the Republicans' historic showing in the 1994 midterms. That chairman was Haley Barbour, who couldn't help but smile as he read it 15 years after the fact:

"Dear Haley,

Congratulations on a great job for the Republican Party. I couldn't be happier with the results. And please don't count me out! I'll be putting in my licks for Republicans as long as I'm able."

Barbour believes the Gipper, even now, has a few licks left.

Overall, and considering it's from the now self-proclaimed left wing rag that is Newsweek, not a bad article.

My issue is with their focus on Barbour being a relic of the past that the GOP is considering digging up to face Obama. That's simply not the case. Barbour has shown innovative and inspiring leadership in his home state of Mississippi. While he's been around awhile, Barbour has evolved where he's had to and embraced proven policies and politics when necessary.

But it's his time at the RGA that Newsweek seems to particularly gloss over.

The RGA has always had a role in electing Republican Governors, but under Barbour's leadership the RGA has developed into an absolute force. The RGA's renaissance is eerily reminiscent of how Barbour utilized the RNC during his time there in the 90's.

Yesterday we learned the RGA had raised $30 million in the most recent reporting period and had $25 million in the bank. For reference, the DGA raised $23.1 million and had only $17.5 million cash on hand.

In other words, the RGA has nearly 43% more in cash on hand than the Democrats.

But Barbour brings far more than fundraising prowess. He also brings unparalleled organizational skills and uncanny strategical prowess. The marriage of the RGA and Barbour is providing Republicans with a lot of hope heading into the 2010 gubernatorial elections. And for good reason.

If Barbour has the kind of success Republicans hope for, one has to wonder how much political capital it will provide Barbour as we head into 2012. The mastermind may earn himself a chance to take the national stage by storm.

Does he have his baggage? Sure. But what politician doesn't? What matters in politics is how the candidate manages that baggage. And as much as some would like to count out Barbour's chances in 2012, perhaps they should sit back and watch the maestro in 2010.

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