Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 22, 2011

THE LOBBYIST IN CHIEF.... In 2010, the GOP base made it clear it prefers a certain kind of candidate. Conservatives like "insurgents" and "outsiders," who have no use for the entrenched Washington establishment and its corrupt power structure.

It's against this backdrop that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) thinks he can win the Republican presidential nomination, despite being the exact opposite of what the base says it's looking for.

He became wealthy as a lobbyist, representing tobacco companies and foreign governments. A former Republican Party chairman, he would seem the ultimate Washington insider. A white Southerner, he has faced questions about his remarks on race.

As he steps closer to becoming a presidential candidate, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has some explaining to do. And rather than running away from his background, he is embracing it.

A lobbyist? Well, he knows how to promote an agenda. An insider? He knows how government works and how to get things done for the American people. A Southerner? So were Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

I tend to think his controversial past on race -- he's kept a confederate flag autographed by Jefferson Davis in his office -- will be his undoing, but even if we put that aside, it's awfully tough to imagine Republicans craving an aggressive outsider and then nominating a D.C. corporate lobbyist for president.

To be sure, it's not impossible. Last year, Indiana Republicans, dominated by Tea Partiers, said they were looking for someone ready to break with the past, question long-held assumptions, and bring a fresh perspective to the entrenched insiders in Congress. They then nominated and elected Dan Coats -- a retired senator and corporate lobbyist who didn't even want to live in Indiana anymore.

But Barbour's job is tougher. Coats faced weak primary opponents, and after the primary, he ran in a "red" state in a GOP year. Barbour will have to overcome stronger primary opponents, who'll be better positioned to go after the governor's past.

It's going to be a tough record to shake. When oil prices come up, voters will be reminded that Barbour was a well-paid lobbyist for energy companies. When immigration comes up, voters will hear about Barbour's lobbying work for the Mexican government.

Consider what happened last week when Barbour suggested he's been to the Pentagon and is confident there are cost savings to be found. Bill Kristol not only blasted the policy position, he said it "raises the question of how much time Barbour has spent at the Pentagon -- apart from time spent lobbying for defense contractors or foreign governments."

Barbour seems to think his record as a lobbyist is a point of pride. That's fine. But he also seems to think it'll help his presidential campaign, and that optimism appears to be misplaced.

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Comments

Vote for Boss Hogg!

We weren't burning no crosses!
That there was landscaping. Mississipi style!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 22, 2011 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Please give us Boss Hog to refight the Civil War in 2012. The foodfight on the cable news nets will make the Mayan calendar thing look like the warm-up act.

Posted by: SW on March 22, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

"...despite being the exact opposite of what the base says it's looking for."

*cough* Rick Scott *cough* *cough* *a-HEM* Daniels *brauuughhbrr* *ahem*

Posted by: Perspecticus on March 22, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

He became wealthy as a lobbyist, representing tobacco companies and foreign governments. A former Republican Party chairman, he would seem the ultimate Washington insider. A white Southerner, he has faced questions about his remarks on race.

One of these sentences is not like the others. His blatant racism is a point in his favor with most of the teabag brigade, their sputtering public denials notwithstanding.

I tend to think his controversial past on race -- he's kept a confederate flag autographed by Jefferson Davis in his office -- will be his undoing

Right, but not among the base -- it's the Republican-leaning independents and moderate Republicans who will push back against that.

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Fer cryin' out loud, if the polling shows he can beat Obama, Barbour will become the right wing's dream candidate. Even Tea Baggers will parrot the line that a lobbyist is simply an advocate for people who otherwise would have not access to their representatives.

Jeebus, the GOP has only one principle: win elections. If Barbour shows he can, the whole party will create a justification for his past.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on March 22, 2011 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Barbour is pretty much the polar opposite of Obama-- and in WingerWorld (TM) that's a major plus. However, in the real world... maybe not so much. But we shall see.

Posted by: MattF on March 22, 2011 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

I think he fits the prototype republican base descriptive. And someone please tell me which mass media outlet is going to point out these character flaws? I thought so . There will be any number of unqualified candidates that we will be subjected to as we are buried in an avalanche of unfettered, untraceable (Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling) cash and advertising. The corporatists will be looking for a stooge and will have no trouble convincing the uneducated masses that Haley or some other doofus is the man for the job

Posted by: John R on March 22, 2011 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Boss Hog will take the south but I can't see the rest of the country voting for him in the general election.

Posted by: wordtypist on March 22, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

"it's awfully tough to imagine Republicans craving an aggressive outsider and then nominating a D.C. corporate lobbyist for president."

Really? I think those people thrive on straddling what are for most people howling contradictions. Bush as a fiscal conservative. Iraq as a war of liberation. Palin. "Limited government" getting the right to examine your uterus.

What happens is that they so over-react to the reality they end up creating the impression of the anti-reality. Smart and cynical people understand this dynamic and use it on purpose to get the desired results.

Nominating a more or less open racist? All we will hear about is "Haley's" commitment to racial equality, for months on end. About 40-something percent of people will come to believe that Haley's record is above reproach and all the attacks on him are quite unfair.

Posted by: Jim Pharo on March 22, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Ditto shortstop. He can be the nominee, he just can't be president. He is a very smart politician, and completely aware of his Boss Hogg image.

Having said that, I'm not sure how he gets through New Hampshire. Maybe South Carolina is the new New Hampshire.

Posted by: Rathskeller on March 22, 2011 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Governor Foghorn Leghorn is nothing but a CAC in a suit, and it reeks from him. While it quite enough to be elected Governor of MISSISSIPPI, the rest of this country? I doubt it. He is the physical embodiment of everything that most people think is wrong with politics, and he's proud of it.

Posted by: rikyrah on March 22, 2011 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Those assholes could not care less about their professed "principles." If a pork-jowled good-old-boy lobbyist with a down attitude about civil rights, people of color, labor, etc. can be "our" President, so much the better for such wanks.

Posted by: neil b on March 22, 2011 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Barbour cannot and will not win the GOTP nomination. As with many of the GOTP potential candidates, they are much more interested in how much money they can raise and sock away than actually winning the nomination. For most of them, and most notably Palin, it's an easy money grab. I wouldn't be surprised to see 40-50 GOPers toss their hat into the ring before its over.

Posted by: T2 on March 22, 2011 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

My first thought after reading the piece on barbour was to thank ms. tumulty for so perfectly stating why I would never vote for barbour. Secondly, who does barbour actually represent - as governor, it certainly wasn't the people of Mississippi which still looks more like a 3rd world country than any prosperous and forward thinking state in the US. It's dismal rankings in virtually every statistic show what a failure barbour actually was. Yes, he's personally done well, but the state of the state of Mississippi is actually pretty pathetic.

He's a social neanderthal. Lastly, the one thing I absolutely cannot get past is the sluping and syrupy souther drawl and listening to him breathe when he talks. I'm a midwesterner by birth, but have lived in TX for almost 30 years, and that accent grates on me like fingernails running down a chalkboard.

Posted by: Jilli on March 22, 2011 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Barbour is the closest thing the Republicans have to a 'pure play' against Obama - old vs. young, past vs. future, most importantly, white vs. black. The racism is not disqualifying as long as it stays just below the surface, even just barely below - remember that everyone was touting George Allen of VA as a GOP frontrunner for 2008 until the 'macaca' video surfaced, and he not only kept a confederate flag in his office, he also kept a noose hung with it.

Posted by: dcsusie on March 22, 2011 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

I really don't give a shit who the GOP nominates and if the Dems play it right (a BIG if) it won't matter.

The biggest issue in my world is who will challenge Obama in the Democratic primary. I want that to be the toughest fight in Obama's political career.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 22, 2011 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

via political wire comes news that barbour was doing some fundraising on the taxpayers' dime
--------------------------
Mississippi taxpayers "forked over more than $18,602 for Gov. Haley Barbour's trip to Las Vegas for a 'project meeting' last March -- a trip in which he hobnobbed with potential donors and powerplayers," the Clarion-Ledger reports.

"The state also paid for Barbour's bodyguards' to stay in $858-a-night hotel rooms during a trip to New York last June."

"From those trips to others across the country, Barbour and his bodyguards racked up more than $300,000 in out-of-state travel expenses in 2010, according to documents obtained by The Clarion-Ledger through public records.

Posted by: dj spellchecka on March 22, 2011 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

One of these sentences is not like the others. His blatant racism is a point in his favor with most of the teabag brigade, their sputtering public denials notwithstanding.

Oh, dear. It's a good thing you don't work for NPR, shortstop.

Posted by: Gregory on March 22, 2011 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

I have lived in the south my entire life - the teabaggers are just traditional southern conservatives - and what they are espousing is what has been practiced in the deep south for years. Do we really want the whole country to look like Mississippi? Would anybody really vote for Barbour given the dismal state of MS?

Posted by: Jane on March 22, 2011 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I'd love to have a Confederate flag autographed by Jeff Davis. That must be worth big bucks to someone

Posted by: merl on March 22, 2011 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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