Wait a Little Longer

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Barbour Bides His Time

We all knew that Haley Barbour was not going to announce any intention to run for President before this recent election. Now that it is over, don’t get your hopes up for an early announcement. While Gov. Barbour is riding high after helping secure key victories in Governor races across the country, the tough task of governing and redistricting still remains. That means Barbour is likely going to wait well into the new year before making any announcement.

Mississippi, like all States, faces a difficult budget year. Unlike some States, it has to have a balanced budget which means tough decisions have to be made. Also if the budget starts to run in the red during the year, the Governor is constitutionally required to make cuts to bring it back into balance. Barbour knows that he is needed to do his job at least for the next several months in order to secure sound government for his State. He also knows that once he announces an intention to run for President, every issue in Mississippi will become a national one as his actions are scrutinized by opponents in an effort to weaken his candidacy.

Barbour can stand up to the criticism. That isn’t the issue. The issue is doing what is right for the people of Mississippi. If the Democrats or even Republicans allied with another potential candidate see an opportunity to play politics at Gov. Barbour’s expense, the real losers will be the people. They will be the ones who have to live with poor decisions made based on personal political feuding rather than solving problems. Barbour isn’t going to let his political aspirations become a burden for the people.

Expect Barbour to be making a lot more trips around the country solidifying support behind the scenes for the next several months. Unless a number of other potential candidates start making early announcements that force Barbour to either get in or stay out, it is likely that Barbour will refrain from making an announcement until at least early summer. Even then, it may only be in the form of an ‘exploratory committee’ until fall. That would give Barbour time to deal with State issues and see how the new composition of government in Washington is playing out before making any commitments.

Right now it is hard to guess whether the drive to 2012 will be accelerated because of the recent election results (which is the initial impulse) or whether the 2012 winds will calm a bit while the fight gets played out in Washington. Any candidate who comes out early will be forced to take stands on legislation in Congress – much of which will fail or be modified into garbage before passed (which is often the result of a split Congress). Tying your name to that carries big risks in the 2012 primary and then general election. Barbour, as a Governor, is particularly best served by staying away from Congress or being forced to take sides on cobbled together legislation. Once he starts getting tied to Washington bureaucracy, he loses some of his ability to champion his successes in Mississippi as a contrast to the failures of Washington.

All this is, of course, subject to what others do. If only light-weights or previous candidates (like Palin or Romney) are announced, he can delay an announcement until the perfect moment. If other contenders start to announce, Barbour will have to be careful not to wait too long as Fred Thompson did in the last cycle. If things go Barbour’s way, the 2012 fever will go down a little and he’ll get a year longer to govern, work behind the scenes and watch what happens in Washington. If, on the other hand, the recent election only fuels the passion for further change, Barbour will have a tough decision to make. If he joins the fray early, he risks losing the ability to campaign on his record as Governor as strongly as he could; but if he waits, the public may already be committed to particular choices. For Barbour, a little calm before the next storm is a better climate.

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