Friday, January 9, 2009

Haley Barbour: Elect more Northeasterners!

Steve Moore does a bang-up job profiling Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour for the Wall Street Journal.

Read it; if not, here are highlights:

a) There's hope for the GOP. During Watergate, only 16% of Americans called themselves Republican. In the mid-1970's, the party's chair actually appointed a committee to change the GOP's name.

"You can't get much lower than that."

b) Barbour's a turn-around artist.

Mr. Barbour was one of the unsung masterminds of the 1994 Republican revolution. If Newt Gingrich was the four-star general, Mr. Barbour was the field marshal.

c) He's an unrepentant conservative.

"I am a small government, rational regulation, low tax, free market capitalist. And I'm going to be one even if I'm the last one!"

d) He's an unrepentant conservative who, nonetheless, believes the GOP needs to broaden its tent.

[there's a temptation] "to purify our party by running off the people that aren't with us 100% of the time, or the people who aren't social conservatives, or the people who aren't this or the people who aren't that. This is a time for the party to be figuring out how to multiply."

e) And, brace yourself, he wants more RINO's "RINO's" in the party.

Wait, I [Steve Moore] say, aren't the big spending Republicans who act like Democrats -- people like Ted Stevens of Alaska or Jerry Lewis of California -- the people contaminating the GOP brand? His view is that Republicans need to elect a lot more moderates from the Northeast to regain operating majorities.

d) He's prepared for 8 years of President Obama.

"We need to understand that only once since 1896 has a party that took the White House not held on for at least two terms, and that was when Reagan beat Jimmy Carter. So the odds are stacked against us."

e) He names the party's future Ronald Reagans.

I ask him if there are any future Ronald Reagans out there in the states. He mentions Bobby Jindal, Mark Sanford, Jim Douglas and, of course, Sarah Palin.

f) And finally, is he going to run in 2012?

"Hail no," he retorts in his trademark southern drawl. He self-deprecatingly informs me that "the American people aren't likely to ever elect a former Washington lobbyist as president."

Haley Barbour's a unique, American figure. You get the sense he would have thrived in the smoke-filled back rooms of yesteryear, not just because he's excelled in the non-smoking boardrooms of today, but because he seems such a genial, but powerful fellow. Like something from a Sinclair Lewis novel.

It's hard to imagine him as President. But it's very easy to imagine him choosing the next one.