Home and Abroad

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Last week Gov. Haley Barbour was visiting neighboring Alabama and received the unofficial endorsement of Gov. Bob Riley.  That effectively removed a potential challenger from the 2012 field.  It wasn’t headline news.  Out of Alabama or Mississippi, it wasn’t news at all – except perhaps here.  Here we look at more than the spotlight grabbing stories that make mediocre candidates temporarily look like contenders.  We look at the things that hint at what’s going on under the surface of the real contenders.  Haley Barbour is one of those.

Haley Barbour is the front-runner, even though most Americans don’t yet know who he is and he is polling in the single digits.  It will be awhile before he officially enters the race and makes his record known to the voting public.  The only overt action he’s taken recently was the mailer to Republicans in Iowa.  In the mean time, he’s building momentum behind the scenes.  It is that effort that will build into the kind of real support that wins elections.

The major media is not covering the announcement of an “understanding” Gov. Barbour worked out with the Panama Canal Authority.  Barbour and members of the Mississippi State Port Authority traveled to Panama and worked out an agreement that would bring more shipping to the Port of Gulfport.  This agreement is more than just a good news story for Gulfport or Mississippi.  It tells much about the forward thinking, follow through and savvy of Haley Barbour.

Barbour plans ahead rather than just reacts to the present

Barbour has taken some criticism for spending $600 million of Hurricane Katrina relief money as part of a $1.6 billion expansion of the Port of Gulfport.  The expansion wasn’t needed then and that money could have been used to rebuild other things.  Barbour isn’t a reactive thinker.  He didn’t look to only put back what was lost, but rather to turn disaster into opportunity.  He knew that the Panama Canal would be expanded in a few years to accommodate larger ships.  He knew that the Port of Gulfport would need to be expanded in order to handle the traffic of an expanded Panama Canal.  So rather than build to the past, he built for the future and then did the work to ensure that future became a reality.

It would have been easier for Barbour to do as his critics suggested and simply put the money into subsidized insurance for gulf coast housing.  After all, he’ll be out of office long before the benefits of his efforts pay dividends.  Had he simply handed the money out to people, he could have gained popularity and praise right now.  He didn’t do that.  He knows that pouring money into insurance subsidies doesn’t fix the underlying problem nor does it do anything to make people self-sufficient.  Bringing in more jobs and a stronger economy will do more to solve problems than subsidizing them.  It doesn’t matter that the benefits will come after he has left office.  He’s doing the right thing rather than the politically expedient thing.  That’s real leadership.

It is stories like this of what Barbour has done and is doing that explain why he is so successful.  It is this kind of thinking and leadership that gains the praise and support of the people and networks necessary to run a successful campaign and, more importantly, a successful administration after winning the campaign.  That network is growing based on the sensible and forward thinking policies of Haley Barbour.

It was announced at the end of last week that Gov. Barbour will be the key note speaker at the Florida GOP “Victory Dinner” in September.  The major media picked that story up because Florida is a consequential State in the 2012 electoral math.  That was the focus of their reporting.  That may be important in 2012, but it isn’t the story today in 2010.  The story is that the Florida GOP tapped Barbour when they needed a key note speaker who would bring in the big donors and energize the party prior to entering the home stretch of the 2010 campaign season.  Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and other Florida GOP figures are going to be lined up behind Barbour and many will owe Barbour some thanks after he helps get them funded and on to victory.  The State’s electoral votes may be important in 2012, but equally important is sidelining any potential challengers from Florida and locking out current challengers from gaining the support of that State’s party machinery.

Just as he did with rebuilding after Katrina and negotiating with the Panama Canal Authority, Barbour is sowing the seeds that will grow into tomorrow’s harvest by his efforts in Florida this year.  He has already done so in Alabama, New Jersey and Virginia just to name a few.  He’s not looking at getting into the spotlight today.  He’s not even looking at the delegate or electoral math of 2012.  He’s looking at having the support in place to be able to effectively govern after a 2012 victory.  I say that not to imply that Barbour is taking anything for granted nor that he thinks he’s got the election in the bag.  I say it because it shows how Barbour is different and why that difference will win the election.

Haley Barbour is a leader who plans ahead.  He has learned that preparing to govern effectively is more important than focusing on winning.  It requires building coalitions of support that tend to not only be there for the future, but also help in the present.  People recognize a real leader.  When the people of the United States get the chance to meet Haley Barbour, they’ll recognize the leader in him.  They’ll recognize it by not only what he says but also by the fact that so many people they have grown to trust and lead will be working with him.  In the end, that will make the difference.  The major media is missing that story and completely missing what makes Haley Barbour so different and why he has been and will continue to be so successful.

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