Barbour’s big day in Virginia
From CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
Matt Strawn, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said Barbour was invited to speak at their “Night of the Rising Stars” in Des Moines, in part, because Barbour knocked off a Democratic incumbent to claim the governorship in 2003. Iowa Republicans are trying hoping for a similar result against Democrat Chet Culver next year.
“Haley has a message that will resonate with Iowa Republicans, capturing a governorship and providing competent and common sense conservative leadership,” Strawn said.
Barbour, a 61-year old native of Yazoo City, Mississippi, is a former lobbyist and Republican National Committee chairman who won the governorship in 2003 and was easily re-elected in 2007. Even with a Democratic legislature, he has governed as a strong fiscal and social conservative, although he did sign into law a cigarette tax increase in May.
He won praise earlier this year from many conservatives for opposing millions in federal stimulus cash devoted to unemployment benefits, which he said would force states to raise taxes when the money runs out. That stance is shared by McDonnell, the man he is campaigning with in Virginia today.
At a fundraising stop in Richmond today, I asked both McDonnell and Barbour about their views on the stimulus package and all the heat both have taken from Democrats.
“It would be stupid policy and I’m not stupid,” the Mississippi governor said about the expanded benefits.
Barbour said the program was essentially a tax increase on employment because it would have required employers to shell out more benefits. “Why in the world would wou want to do that?” he asked, given the state of the nation’s economy.
McDonnell pointed out that he asked Congress to support changes to the legislation that would have specified the temporary nature of the cuts. Democrats, he claimed, wouldn’t go along with that idea, insisting that the plan was fine as-written.
The Richmond Report
Barbour said his advice, was not to look ahead to 1996, but instead focus on 1993 and the gubernatorial campaigns of George Allen in Virginia and Christie Todd Whitman in New Jersey. He said that is exactly what Republicans did. Both Allen and Whitman won and that laid the ground work for the historic 1994 Republican sweep of Congress. (Of course, it was not enough to propel Republicans past Clinton in ‘96)
Fast forward to 2009. Republicans are in similar desperate straights and it is now Haley Barbour who is being asked if he plans to run for President in 2012. To answer the question over his ambitions, Barbour responded with the same advice he gave his fellow Republicans in 1993.
“I feel exactly the same way today,” said Barbour. “That any Republican that is trying to focus on helping our party and helping his country, needs to focus on the election of 2009, including Virginia and New Jersey and the elections of 2010. After that we can start worrying about 2012. And since I have given that advice to a few thousand people, I’m taking it myself.”
Deeds is running on the mantle of the two previous Democratic governors, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. Both men were well-liked by the Virginia electorate, which has been trending leftward in recent years after being a GOP stronghold for nearly four decades. President Barack Obama’s victory in Virginia during the 2008 election was the first time the state voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
UPDATED [2:45pm]: Deed’s campaign has released a statement on McDonnell’s decision to include Barbour on the campaign:
For a candidate running to be a moderate, Bob McDonnell doesn’t seem
to have any problem praising the cheerleaders for the old-style
Republican policies of the likes of George Bush and Jim Gilmore.
McDonnell calls Haley Barbour a model governor, but Barbour is
proposing tax increases for Mississippians while rejecting federal
money to fund benefits for unemployed workers…? Creigh Deeds will provide leadership in the model of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine that will create jobs and get our economy
Barbour is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and is currently vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which has given McDonnell nearly $2 million this year.
McDonnell will face Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds of Bath County in the November election for governor.
UPDATE: In an email, the McDonnell campaign announced that today’s fundraisers netted $250,000.
UPDATE 2: During a press briefing in Richmond today, Barbour predicted success for McDonnell in November despite efforts by Democrats from President Barack Obama on down to prevent that.
Barbour pointed to 1993 — Bill Clinton’s first year as President — as his rationale for that prognostication. As is the case in 2009, Democrats that year were intently focused on the Virginia governor’s race. Republican George Allen trailed in early polls, Barbour noted, before handily winning the election later that year.