On Fox News Sunday, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour talked about his potential candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Barbour was immediately asked about his past as a lobbyist in Washington, something which most people would see as a mark against the governor. But Barbour sees it as an advantage that he holds over possible contenders. The president’s job is to lobby to Congress, to America’s allies, even to its enemies. “That’s what presidents do for a living,” he explained. “Presidents try to sell what’s good for America to others in the world, as well as to Americans.”
As governor, Barbour managed to balance Mississippi’s state budget at a time of considerable fiscal crisis. He told Fox News Sunday that he had saved the Mississippi taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid spending by seeing to it that the people who were on it were actually eligible for the program. Applied to the federal level, similar measures could help save many hundreds of billions of dollars more, he claimed.
Earlier in the week, Barbour touted his fiscal credentials at the Conservative Political Action Conference where many potential Republican candidates for the presidency speeched. “You can save money on entitlements,” he told the CPAC crowd Saturday; “you just gotta have the will to do it.”
When asked about the fact that spending in the state of Mississippi went up during his term, Barbour admitted that when he became governor, “spending actually increased 28 percent.” Without raises in tax rates though, revenue increased 42 percent during his first term. “We did it because we had more taxpayers with more taxable income. That’s how you get the revenue up.”
In CPAC’s presidential straw poll, Barbour took the last place with but a single percent of the vote. He explained on Sunday that the poll was closed before he had had a chance to speak. Having addressed the audience though, the governor said that several people had told him that they wished they had voted differently.
Barbour’s history as a lobbyist isn’t the only thing standing in the way of a presidential run. Some of the statements he has made about growing up in the racially segregated South have caused controversy. He explained on Fox this Sunday that when we said he didn’t remember things as being “that bad,” he was referring to his own childhood, not the Mississippi of the 1960s. He urged people to look at his record instead of his childhood.
We have more African American elected officials in Mississippi than anywhere in the country. I’ve had outstanding African American members of my administration. You know, I’m proud of that record and I’ll put it up.
Asked about his presidential ambitions, Barbour said that he was “serious” but wouldn’t make a decision until April. “I’m not somebody who has wanted to run for president all of my life,” he added. “But right now, I think the country is in such straits, we’ve got to have a huge change.”