But there are four solid reasons why Barbour could be the Republican sleeper in 2012. Let’s look at them in ascending order.
4. The Republican field, less than 10 months from the 2012 Iowa caucuses, does not have a front runner yet. Mitt Romney has troubles with evangelicals and small government conservatives. Sarah Palin has squandered her fame (though not her fortune) and now looks unserious. Mike Huckabee doesn’t want it … the telltale sign is that he has comfortably settled into his old overweight self. Newt Gingrich, though he imagines himself a Churchill in the wilderness, is past his sell date. Tim Pawlenty is trying to be all things to all conservatives but so far he is unable to convey much passion. Some deep part of Mitch Daniels apparently doesn’t want the job. Jeb Bush has the wrong last name. Chris Christie might be too regional.
3. Barbour is easily the most connected of all Republican candidates. He knows every governor, most legislators, all the fundraisers. He is well-liked.
2. He has performed well as Mississippi’s governor, both during the Hurricane Katrina crisis and in the everyday governor’s stuff of tamping down the state’s notorious tort bar, balancing budgets and promoting Mississippi as a place to do business. Barbour is, simply, a terrific salesmen for Mississippi’s business community.