Barbour: ‘Redneck’ may overcome

Conservative Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Jim Wooten last week dismissed national speculation that Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour might emerge as a serious Republican presidential contender in 2012 with these words: “There’s too much prejudice elsewhere in the country from potential voters who equate Mississippi with redneck politics.”

“Redneck politics?”

This from a state that produced a U.S. president from a small town called Plains who on April 20, 1979, actually got into a fracas with what the White House would later term a “swamp rabbit” while on a fishing excursion?

This from a state that produced a U.S. president whose brother successfully introduced and marketed a product called “Billy Beer?”

There’s a certain amount of truth in the notion that as the governor of a state with only a handful of electoral votes, as a former highly successful Washington lobbyist and the most mushmouth Southern drawl on the national political scene since Jimmy Carter, there are a few obstacles to a Haley Barbour presidency.

But as pundit P.J. O’Roarke once opined, Carter taught the country a thing or two about redneck presidents as he noted in his 1995 tome Republican Party Reptile:

“You may be wondering where Jimmy Carter comes in. Jimmy Carter was a redneck just like we’re all trying to be, but he was a sober redneck. Most of us had never seen a sober redneck, and we have the Reagan landslide to testify that most of us never want to see one again. It was a horrifying apparition.”

Then, of course, America eventually welcomed William Jefferson Clinton to the White House.

Years later, speaking of Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-New York, observed:

“I don’t have the slightest clue who Hillary really is. All I see is a gal who knew she was as good as anyone else, and she saw this guy she could make something of, so she forfeited Illinois and went to Arkansas. That’s a hell of a move to make for a redneck, which is all he was.”

Clarion Ledger Editorial