He’s not a candidate. He hasn’t endorsed anyone. He doesn’t even have a vote on the Republican National Committee. But in the race for the RNC chairmanship, there’s no figure who casts a longer shadow than Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
For many longtime RNC members, Barbour, who served as chairman from 1993 to 1997, remains the very model of a modern party chief, comfortable operating in smoke-filled rooms and in front of video cameras, at ease with every member of the committee. For newer members, too, he’s a shining reminder of the good old days, when Republicans had a vibrant organization and a robust message.
Like Ronald Reagan in the GOP’s 2008 presidential primaries, Barbour has become a symbol in the RNC race for everything party members would like to see in a chairman — if only they could find his logical successor.