Former GOP chairman, Barbour, looks at the race

Washington Times:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour yesterday said that he is too conservative to be John McCain's running mate but that the Arizona senator's maverick reputation will help him in an election in which moderates and independents will be more important than in recent years.

Mr. Barbour also urged Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, not to name his pick for vice president until after the Democrats' convention, when he can draw the sharpest distinction between the parties.

Mr. McCain will depend on "persuasion" to snare independents and disgruntled Democrats on Nov. 4, unlike George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections when victory depended on maximizing the turnout of each party's hard-core partisans, said Mr. Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman.

"I am a lot more conservative than John McCain," Mr. Barbour told The Washington Times at a luncheon meeting with the newspaper's editors and reporters. "It may help him that he is not as conservative as I am."

More Democrats than before are going to be unhappy with their party's nominee, whether it's current Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton loyalists. Such Democrats may be ripe for the picking by Mr. McCain, a maverick Republican admired by many Democrats and independents for his own occasional and unpredictable independence. But Republicans are also poised for defections.

"I think there are a lot more Democrats who will vote for McCain this time than for President Bush last time, and a lot more Republicans who [will] vote for one of the Democrats this time," he said.

Mr. Barbour acknowledged that at this point, the Republican electorate is missing some of the intensity of past elections. But the former Republican national chairman predicted that things will change dramatically once the Democrats have settled on a standard-bearer.

That's when the McCain-GOP strategy will be to point out how far to the left the Democratic nominee is from most Americans, who are still in the center-right spot they have been for decades.

...

Hayley Barbour may have been the best party chairman for either party in the last 50 years and certainly the most consequential. He was the chairman that help lead the GOP to the take over of Congress in 1994 and even Bill Clinton was jealous of his effectiveness. He is still an astute observer of the political scene and I think his analysis of how this race will play out is pretty close. It will certainly test the theory of whether you have to move to the center to win.

Barbour has also been an effective executive as Governor of Mississippi. The contrast of his leadership after Katrina with that of the governor of Louisiana is striking. There was no whining or figure pointing. He and his state just rolled up their sleeves and went to work. I would add that the same thing happened in Texas where Gov. Perry also should effective leadership. If Louisiana had that kind of leadership FEMA could have been a much more effective agency.

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