Ok, I am going to go out on a limb here and make a bold prediction. Here goes: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour will not be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. I place this piece of prognostication right up there with the prediction I made to my Dartmouth students way back in 1996, that Senator Phil Gramm of Texas would not be the Republican nominee in that year’s presidential contest.
I make the Barbour prediction in reaction to an Associated Press article I came across in today’s Concord Monitor. It suggests that the governor’s upcoming trips to New Hampshire and Iowa are indicative of presidential aspirations on his part. Most amusingly, the article claims (and I’m quoting here) that “many rank-and-file Republicans and party leaders” believe that Barbour is the best person to lead the Republican Party out of the political wilderness and on to victory in 2012. Of course the authors produce only a single testimonial to this end, and it’s from Ed Gillespie, a veteran GOP strategist who is savvy enough to know the appropriate answer to give in this situation.
It is true that Barbour has a lot of relevant political experience under his belt. Having served as chairman of the Republican National Committee during a period of Republican ascendancy in Congress (1993-97), and now as a second-term governor and vice-chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Barbour is certainly plugged into the party’s inner circle. In that capacity, he’ll no doubt be an important party strategist, fundraiser, and campaign surrogate in the next presidential election cycle.
But that is different than saying he is well-positioned to be the party’s electoral standard-bearer. Vice presidential running mate would be more likely, depending on the top of the ticket. For a party in danger of being marginalized as too old, white, male, and Southern, picking a nominee who is old (65 in 2012), white, male, and Southern just doesn’t sound like a winning strategy. I will nonetheless be interested to hear what Gov. Barbour has to say when he visits New Hampshire next week. He is a smart veteran politician, but I would bet that for whatever presidential ambition he might harbor, he also knows that he is not going to be the one.
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