Cross one name off the very, very long list of Republican candidates, as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, in a bit of a surprise, announces that he is NOT running.
Barbour had made several Iowa stump stops, including a Johnson County GOP spaghetti dinner that I attended. Mybe he wasn't seeing the commitments on the ground, or maybe his statement can be taken at face value:
"A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," he said. "His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required."In a parliamentary system, Barbour would be the kind of guy who'd be a prime minister: long service to the party in a variety of roles, from a safe bastion of the party.
I was impressed with Barbour, or at least as much as I can be with a conservative Republican. His speech focused entirely on the economy, and while I didn't agree with his assessment I noticed the lack of tangents into divisive social issues or oppositional defiance on foreign policy.
Barbour also looked like a quintessential retail politician, ready to win the caucuses one handshake and backslap at a time. I liked the guy, in the same folksy way I like Mike Huckabee more than, say, Romney or Pawlenty.
To the extent that Barbour's asterisk of support goes to anyone, it helps the other "grownups" in the race: Romney, Pawlenty, and if he runs Daniels. It's just one less way to divide that traditional Main Street Republican vote, which no longer makes up a majority in a nominating contest.
So a guy like Haley Barbour can't get any traction, but Donald Trump gets taken seriously. Does that say more about the Republican Party of 2011 or about the process in general?
Update: Todd Versteegh comments to note: "Last week Barbour underwent what was termed a 'minor' back surgery for an 'ongoing medical issue'. The timing of that surgery occuring last week and today's announcement certainly is no coincidence."