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Haley Barbour Mulling White House Run

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Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is reportedly thinking about running for President:

POLITICO has learned that Barbour is weighing the prospect of a 2012 White House bid and convened a private meeting April 8 with a group of some of his oldest and closest advisers, some of whom flew in from the East Coast to Jackson, Miss. The gathering stretched for six hours, during which time the topic of a presidential run was discussed.

One adviser familiar with the state capital sit-down said that Barbour concluded that he did not need to make a decision now and that the group should meet again after this fall’s election.

Barbour, who as chairman of the Republican Governors Association is directing the GOP’s efforts to win the 37 governors’ races this year, told his team that he would remain focused intently on November but also made clear that he would stay open to the prospect of a presidential run.

That’s not a commitment, of course, but it’s a noticeable change from what Barbour said in the past:

[A]fter insisting for months that it was highly unlikely that he would run for president, Barbour made no effort to tamp down the possibility.

“After the November election, we’ll sit down and see if there is anything to consider,” is all he said.

It’s good politics, of course, to say you’re only focused on helping others win at the moment — but

Barbour’s closest advisers say the one-game-at-at-time approach isn’t just boilerplate rhetoric. The former linebacker and state party executive director, they say, truly buys into it.

“That’s where his head is right now,” said Henry Barbour, the governor’s nephew and former campaign manager. “If we’re going to stop the stuff President Obama and Speaker Pelosi are trying to do, we need to win some games in November. You don’t focus on the team you’re playing the following week.”

In fact, that’s exactly what Barbour said in his speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference:

It also appears that Barbour may be being influenced to run by what’s left of the Republican establishment:

“He’d instantly be in the top-tier of candidates,” said Fred Malek, one of the GOP’s leading moneymen who is working with Barbour on governor’s races this year but is also close with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“Haley starts with enormous credibility,” said former Bush adviser Karl Rove. “He has been a very successful governor, a very successful party chairman, and his stewardship at the RGA has put him in touch with some movers and shakers he may not have known before. And every one of those experiences has broadened his army of advisers and deepened the commitment of the ones he already had.”

Barbour is already being urged to consider a run by some of the GOP’s top donors, say multiple sources inside and outside his camp.

“To the degree that there is an establishment that is still relevant, a lot of those people have said to him, ‘I don’t want to get involved in 2012 until I know what you’re doing,’” one Barbour adviser said.

Further, Barbour has warmed to the possibility in part because the Republican competition for the nomination still is sparse.

At the same time, Barbour does have vulnerabilities.

For one, there’s the fact that, as a long time Washington insider, he has substantial ties to lobbyists in a variety of industries.

For another, there’s the fact that Barbour heads the only remaining Southern state to have the Confederate Battle Flag in it’s state flag and that he recently said that not mentioning slavery in a proclamation about Confederate History Month wasn’t really a big deal:

If you don’t think that won’t turn into a campaign commercial in a General Election, you’re kidding yourself.

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