Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post this last night shared a summary of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour that encapsulates his potential image problem going into the 2012 race should he decide to run:
Probably not high on your list would be: 1) a former lobbyist who made millions carrying water for tobacco companies, the oil industry and foreign governments; 2) the governor of a state ranked at or near the bottom in pretty much every measure of its residents’ well-being; and 3) a beefy southerner who kept a confederate flag autographed by Jefferson Davis in his office and who has a Delta drawl as thick as Karo syrup.
Ouch. Obviously as the former chair of the RNC and as chairman of the Republican Governors Association he, as Tumulty notes, is extremely well connected and brings a ton of fundraising experience. Last week he entered Iowa with a splash focusing on jobs and the economy. He was asked about his prolife bonafides to which he replied:
My first year as Governor, we had a pro-life package of six pro-life bills. The Democratic legislature passed all six of them, and the American United for Life named me their “Man of the Year,” and the state of Mississippi is the safest state in the nation for an unborn child. I’m very proud of that, and I’m willing to put up my social conservative bona fides against anybody.
But what have you done for us lately? Iowans are also going to want to know what he will do as President and what his focus will be since he has seemed to shy away from social issues. He is also the guy who back in 2009 at an Iowa GOP fundraiser also encouraged party-line voting which didn’t sit well with many Republican activists. He also echoed Mitch Daniels by discouraging the GOP from talking about social issues last fall. If Iowans don’t remember they are going to be reminded about this as the Caucus season progresses and candidates are vetted.
So Governor Barbour will have more to overcome than just his personal history and background if he is to be successful in Iowa.