Barbour impressive behind drawl

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, May 1, 2011

In the spring of 2007 Gov. Haley Barbour traveled to Washington,D.C., to speak to a crowded room of newspaper editors andpublishers from across the country. I had the privilege ofintroducing him.

After speaking completely off the cuff for about 30 to 45minutes, he received a standing ovation.

Afterwards, fellow newspaper folks from places like California,Colorado and Michigan commented to me how impressed they were. Theywanted to know more about this Mississippi governor.

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At subsequent meetings over the next couple of years, some ofthose editors were still bringing up Haley Barbour.

At the 2007 meeting, with the events of Hurricane Katrina just ayear and a half earlier, he of course talked about Mississippi’sefforts of recovery, but he also spoke of national politics, ofWashington issues and touched other issues of the day. With hisSouthern drawl and quick wit, he mesmerized the curmudgeonly groupof journalists.

Of interest to me afterward was from where the commentscame.

The community editors and publishers attending were a politicalmix of Republican, Democrat and Independents. Those who commentedto me tended to be more liberal in thinking. They wereimpressed!

Monday afternoon’s announcement that he would not be joining the2012 presidential campaign caught most off guard.

All the signs were pointed to a Barbour run for the presidency.He had recently hired key political advisers across the country,had spent months traveling across the country testing the waters.He was even getting back to his “playing weight.” From all pointersit looked like a go!

But his announcement Monday that he did not have the “fire inthe belly” to make the 10-year commitment that it would takebrought it all to an abrupt end. At age 63, after a life inpolitics that started at the grass roots level in the MississippiRepublican Party in his twenties, which took him to the highestlevels of national party politics – both in stature and respect -he apparently decided to take a different tack.

What is in the future for Barbour?

Some point to a potential cabinet position should Republicanstake the White House in 2012. Others suggest him as a vicepresidential candidate.

Personally we’d like to see a run for U.S. Senate should thestate’s senior senator, Sen. Thad Cochran, decide to not run nextyear. Mississippi needs Barbour’s leadership. His stature on thenational stage would allow him to immediately join the ranks of aCochran, Lott, Stennis and Eastland.

Had Barbour jumped in to the presidential race, it would havebeen interesting. For like my newspaper friends back in 2007, therest of the nation would likely too have been impressed with whatthey would have found behind that slow, Southern drawl.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to