Faced with the prospect of squaring off in 2012 against the first African American president, some Republicans are begging the Governor of Mississippi to stay out of the running. According to Politico’s Mike Allen, “a handful of well-known Republicans” will reach out to Gov. Haley Barbour (R) and “urge him, for the good of his party, to run for chairman of the Republican National Committee rather than the party’s nomination for president, as he currently plans.”
Barbour, who is currently head of the Republican Governors Association — the “largest pot of party money” on the GOP side, as Allen reports — will be tempted away from a run at Obama with two tasty plums. First, the argument “that he could make an immediate impact on his party at a critical juncture.” Second? “Barbour would get a plum job like ambassador to London” if the Republicans win in 2012.
Barbour, of course, has already served as RNC chair once. He ran the party’s headquarters in Washington from 1993-1997. Despite the fact that Bill Clinton was in the White House, the years are remembered fondly by Republicans thanks to the 1994 GOP midterm elections sweep. In comparison to the RNC of today, the era is nothing but salad days for Republicans. Current RNC chair Michael Steele has become something of a laughingstock for political observers, and his tenure has not produced the same kind of fundraising results Barbour brought to the RGA after taking over for avid hiker/South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
Despite the desire to return to an RNC that has a shred of credibility, Republicans might be wary of what a 2012 fight with Barbour at the top of the GOP ticket might look like. The Mississippi governor is not known for his centrism, nor his particularly calming rhetoric on racial matters, as we all learned earlier this year during the kerfluffle over Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Confederate History Month declaration.
“It is not significant,” Barbour told CNN in April, referring to McDonnell’s decision to leave any mention of slavery out of the Virginia declaration (McDonnell later apologized).
“It’s trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn’t amount to diddly,” Barbour added.
Here’s what that looked like: