The Mississippi governor has a long road ahead, but don’t underestimate him

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has been such a force in national politics for so long that it’s a shock to realize most of the country doesn’t know him. As he makes preparations to run for president, national polls of the Republican field show he’d pull only 1 to 2 percent of the primary vote. But if the past is prologue, that won’t last long.

Barbour, 63, is dismissed by some as a Southern candidate who would nail down the only region the GOP already has nailed down. The usually surefooted politician did misstep recently with comments that suggested he was oblivious, or at least insensitive, to the civil rights struggles and tragedies of his state and hometown of Yazoo City.

The negative publicity, along with his imperceptible showings in polls, underscore the distance Barbour has to travel to become a viable national candidate. He’s also handicapped as a sitting governor; he says he won’t make a final decision on whether to run until his legislature adjourns in April.