Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s decision not to seek the Republican presidential nomination re-shapes the GOP field – a field that should increase by one, next week, when Texas Rep. Ron Paul is expected to toss his hat in the ring (opinions vary as to Paul’s impact).
Barbour, as a candidate, would have entered the race as inarguably the smartest strategist in the bunch. Remember this is the same man who chaired the Republican National Committee during the GOP’s Contract With America hey-day; Barbour also quarterbacked the Republican Governors Association during last fall’s nationwide sweep).
And his no-go starts the dominoes a-tumblin’ in GOP presidential circles.
- It makes it more likely that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee runs. Why? Without Barbour in the running, the South is wide-open. Imagine this scenario: Huckabee wins the Iowa caucuses, loses to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in New Hampshire; the two hold a tie-breaker in South Carolina. Huckabee wins there, sweeps the South, and goes on to secure the nomination. It’s a lot more plausible sans Barbour chipping away at the Dixie vote.
- Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels may give it a go (Daniels, who says he’ll shed light on his 2012 plans after Indiana’s General Assembly wraps up its session this week), says he would have supported Barbour). Why would Daniels be more tempted? With Barbour on the sidelines, there’s not a “real-time” governor in race. Yes, Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have state-executive credentials, but neither is currently in a scrap over pension reform or spending cuts – music to Tea Partiers’ ears. On paper, this makes Daniels a very sexy sell as a presidential hopeful (which also explains the buzz over Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and New Jersey Gov. Christie – GOP primary voters yearn for a doer).
- Perhaps, now, Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets his close-up. Perry, like Daniels, would look for support from his fellow sitting governors. Which is why, if you’re Romney, you hot-foot it to the Magnolia State and ask what it would take to get Barbour’s endorsement, before it goes to Daniels – not to mention the Mississippi gov’s political brain-trust and network of moneyed supporters from his days as RGA chair (ironically, a job now held by . . . Gov. Perry).
So what other dominoes remain? Two big ones.
- Sarah Palin has to get off the fence (again, opinions vary as to whether she’s in or out).
- And (grimace) Donald Trump, who supposedly will clue us in when his show comes to its season’s end. I can’t decide which scares me more: The Donald, as President, or NBC trying to fill an hour of prime time with “The Apprentice” on hiatus.
(photo credit: Gage Skidmore)