A while back, I made some waves on this site by promoting former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for President in 2012. As I predicted at the time, nostalgia for the Bush years is growing quickly. You may have seen the recent poll in Ohio that showed voters there prefering President Bush to President Obama by a 50-42% margin. Unfortunately, Jeb Bush has made it very clear that he does not plan to run for President in 2012 (though he could reconsider).
I still like that post very much and think my thoughts on 2012 have held up well. I continue to believe that what the general electorate will want and what the Tea Party will want are not the same. Fresh off dramatic victories this year, Tea Party activists are going to want a GOP Presidental candidate who explicitly promises to close several cabinet departments, gut entitlement spending, etc. They will view their success this year as a broad mandate for their views, when in reality many people will simply be casting a vote against the President because the economy is bad. In contrast to the Tea Party, the general public is really going to want competence. The public already just wants the grownups to be in charge again. Ordinary people will largely see their mistake in 2008 not as “Obama was too liberal” but instead as “Obama was too inexperienced and untested.” Like the election of 1920, the public will embrace a “return to normalcy” in the wake of the “progressive” excesses of the previous four years.
So, while I personally would love to see multiple cabinet agencies eliminated, I don’t think that the general public is going to want a candidate running on those issues. I also don’t think that the public will want someone unproven nationally on the public stage. I’m therefore suggesting that, for conservatives like myself, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour may be our best candidate.
Haley has been talked about as a candidate for a while (I mentioned him in the earlier post back in February), but this interview convinced me. In contrast to the pseudo-intellectual elitism that defines the Obamas, the best word to describe Haley is authentic. He grew up in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and he raised his kids there. As he says in the interview, “what you see is what you get.”
You may remember that President George H.W. Bush was caricatured as elitist and was widely ridiculed for an episode in which he was falsely portrayed as being unfamiliar with supermarket scanners in a checkout line. Bill Clinton, by contrast, seemed authentic, and people really believed that he could “feel their pain.” With much of America believing that President Obama is a Muslim, foreign-born, etc., what better contrast than with a country boy from Mississippi? They don’t eat arugula there.
Haley Barbour has been remarkably effective as governor of Mississippi. His leadership during Hurricane Katrina was a stark contrast the ineffective hand-wringing that we got from Governor Blanco. He’s balanced the budget by cutting spending, passed the strictest tort reform in the country (which has encouraged business development), and currently enjoys a 70% approval rating in his state. Of course, Haley has effectively led on the national stage as well, as the RNC Chairman who put together the 1994 GOP landslide. He’s also the de facto leader of the Republican Party right now, and his leadership is making him a lot of friends.
Of course, Haley is the ultimate GOP insider, the exact opposite of what the Tea Party wants, but he’s also very conservative and has pushed the party consistently to the right. There’s a lot of uncertainty about who will be running in 2012, but what we can be sure about is that Haley’s candidacy (assuming he runs) will be a serious challenge for the nomination. I’m not the first to predict Haley Barbour as the nominee, but I won’t be the last.