Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I find myself thinking that Haley Barbour dropped out of the presidential race because this is the first time in decades that he's tried to do anything and failed to receive widespread adulation from right-wing white people (voters or fellow fat cats). The guy made it to the top of the greasy pole so long ago that I don't think he's accustomed to trying. I don't think he's accustomed to having to persuade people (or at least conservative whites) of his wonderfulness. Yeah, he won a tight race in 2003 (53%-46%) when he was first elected governor of Mississippi, but he got 77% of the white vote. And now he's been traveling around the country and right-wing whites and donors don't all love him. I suspect that's what damped down the fire in his belly.


Barbour was not going to be the GOP nominee in 2012 -- Mitt Romney has the rich-insider niche to himself, and the competition apart from that is for the crazy base, a constituency Barbour clearly didn't want to court. I've been saying for months that Barbour can't win because he doesn't know how to speak wingnut, or at least the tea-party-era dialect of it; Politico's article on why Barbour dropped out (which doesn't really answer that question) confirms what I've been saying:

Barbour officials dismissed his dismal showing in early polls as a mere product of lack of name identification, but some GOP activists who heard the governor speak on some of his recent trips said they weren't convinced he was connecting.

At a moment when the loudest and most provocative voices in the GOP are drawing most of the attention and presidential candidates are scrambling to get in line with a base demanding ever bloodier red meat, Barbour showed no inclination to accommodate.

He is a conventional Republican and was offering conventional rhetoric about President Obama's policy weaknesses.

His instincts for what the base wanted to hear were just awful -- and his pals in the press never figured out that they were awful. Remember when he called for a cut in defense spending, and Joe Klein predicted that all the cool Republicans would follow that smart Haley Barbour's lead? Ha.

And Barbour's racial gaffe? Well, yeah, he said race relations in his Mississippi hometown in the '50s and '60s weren't that bad -- but he just never learned how you handle these things in the modern era: you do what Rand Paul did when he said the law should allow you to segregate your lunch counter, which is to apologize, but to also withdraw from contact with the mainstream media, as a means of signaling to the crazies that you're the victim and the people in the lamestream press are the villains. (And, hell, this past week a GOP operative was revealed to have sent an Obama-as-monkey e-mail, and she was warmly greeted by a black wingnut radio host; Barbour, if he'd known how the crazies think, could have gone on a similar anti-contrition tour of talk radio and Fox News. If he'd displayed just the right combination of regret and defiance, he could have been exonerated by the wingers and his MSM pals.)


And now I'm reading that Barbour's exit helps Mitch Daniels, who's Barbour's friend and who's said he wasn't inclined to run if Barbour ran. Well, Mitch's pal just conceded fifth place to him. Daniels can't win either, not because he's short or bald (though those things don't help) but because he called for a "truce" on social issues and a (slight) retreat from Scott Walker-style anti-union extremism. So forget it -- he's toast, too, no matter how much insider juice Barbour can offer him.

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