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Barbour circling
Where will Haley land in a Romney administration

by Frank Corder
For some politicos, tracking Haley Barbour's whereabouts is a past time that rivals any sports fanatic. And thanks to his new website, Barbour-watchers can now get their daily fix of the former Mississippi governor.

Barbour recently launched "Coffee with Haley", a daily web video where he offers his take on the 2012 presidential campaign as well as Senate, House, and gubernatorial races. The site promises "insightful discussion of policy and how issues are affecting the races as well as of campaign strategy."

He is uniquely suited for such perspectives. Besides being a state chief executive, Barbour was also Chairman of the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association as well as having served as political director in former President Ronald Reagan's White House. He is a coveted Republican strategist and frequent contributor on national political talk shows. He was even encouraged to seek the White House and flirted with the endeavor before bowing out, leaving many disappointed.

So why would Barbour be circling in such an obvious fashion? After all, he doesn't even care for coffee all that much; just ask AP reporter Emily Wagster Pettus.

If November 6th goes as America needs it to go and Republicans take the White House, Mitt Romney will be looking to fill a number of positions in federal government, the most notable being Cabinet posts.

As it is currently arranged, the President's Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments - the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General. Also included at the Cabinet level are the White House Chief of Staff, Environmental Protection Administrator, Office of Management & Budget Director, U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Small Business Administration Administrator.

With Mitt Romney as President, Haley Barbour will be in one of these 22 Cabinet positions. That's odds even Vegas would take.

No, Haley won't be Secretary of State or UN Ambassador. Even though he can turn his Southern drawl on and off like a light switch, his assigned interpreter would need an interpreter from Yazoo City just to slice through Barbour's colloquialistic pronunciations.

You can also scratch out other Secretary level positions for obvious political reasons, namely Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development. And while Barbour does have a legal background (something Mississippi's Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood surely regrets), he won't be U.S. Attorney General.

Which slot would Haley Barbour fill in President Romney's Cabinet?

Two Cabinet posts have Barbour's name all over them and one of them is likely to be offered to the former Mississippi governor in a Romney administration:

1). White House Chief of Staff - Barbour knows the ins and outs of state and federal government and Romney will need someone who can oil the machine and keep it running smoothly to ensure that the administration's interests are applied across the board at every level in the Cabinet. Haley Barbour is the man for this job without question or comparison. There is simply no one in the GOP ranks as adept and respected as Barbour.

2). Secretary of Homeland Security - There is no other former or current Governor, Senator, Congressman or bureaucrat as experienced in crisis management than Haley Barbour. FEMA could learn from sitting at Haley's feet. In this post, he would also be tasked with overseeing immigration enforcement, coordinating with law enforcement agencies, securing the borders, and prosecuting terrorists, among other things. No one understands the policies and practicality at play for states and the federal government in these arenas better than Haley Barbour.

But while Barbour would fit well as the Secretary of Homeland Security, it's quite possible that he wouldn't be particularly interested in this post; the bureaucracy and institutional constraints may simply be less than desirable for the elder Republican.

As White House Chief of Staff, however, Barbour's role would be more fluid and less stuck in the mire of the Beltway, making the position more attractive and even enjoyable for such a political animal as Haley.

Look for Barbour to also play a role in the Romney-Ryan transition team.

Yes, any discussion of Haley Barbour in a Mitt Romney White House is still pure speculation and water cooler chatter, but it cannot be argued that such an investment of service would be good for Mississippi.

There is no doubt that Barbour is circling, seeking the right place to land. Romney's team would be smart to incorporate Haley now and lock up the GOP lion.

Posted September 3, 2012 - 10:50 am


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