Anticipation mounts over Barbour run

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 21, 2001

For months, people have played the guessing game: Will Haley Barbour run for governor?

If you talked hypothetically with a GOP politico about that question three months ago, you got repeated “if’s” and a few “we just don’t know’s.”

But when you ask those same folks now, the hypothetical talk is missing those key words.

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As for Barbour himself, he hasn’t announced anything. And he won’t, until he’s darn good and ready.

But there are a few things that have Republicans smiling.

First, he sold his business – old news. Reportedly, his wife, Marsha, doesn’t like Washington that much and would be tickled to move back to Mississippi – old news. And Barbour has accepted a speaking engagement in Jackson on Jan. 20 as keynote speaker for the Rankin County Republican Party’s annual banquet.

That news isn’t old. In fact, it hasn’t been officially announced, though there are reportedly several people already on the list for tickets.

So what’s the big deal? If you remember back a few years, former gubernatorial candidate Mike Parker, now head of the U.S. Corps of Engineers in Washington, used that very same meeting as sort of a preliminary to his official announcement.

Looking out over an audience of friendly Republicans and anxious news cameramen and reporters, he leaned onto the podium, stared into one of the cameras and smiled real big, “I’m not going to tell you tonight. But I do have something to say in the next few weeks, and it’s going to be big.”

He used “it’s going to be big” repeatedly during that speech. From that point on, everyone knew he was going to run.

If you are going to run for governor as a Republican, you have to have Rankin, DeSoto and Harrison counties squarely behind you. You have to nail down Forrest and Lamar counties, take in Jones County and then find some support in Northeast Mississippi.

Barbour, far from a political fool, knows this. Rankin County, this go ’round, will be a starting block. He probably won’t announce there, but he’ll start running.

Furthermore, if he wasn’t going to run, odds are he wouldn’t take that invite. He would tell them to give their nod somewhere else. You see, Barbour is known as a team player. He wouldn’t want to hurt other fellow Republicans if he didn’t have any intentions of running.

And being a team player is something the GOP hasn’t had as a candidate in a long time. Not even former Gov. Fordice was much on bringing in money for other candidates. Barbour is.

While Barbour will probably funnel away some money from other candidates, he’ll more than be able to make up for it by bringing in outside money to the state. Lots of money for other candidates. That could win him some support in unlikely areas.

Maybe, say, northeast Mississippi, you know, where Democrats still roam in herds.

But some Dems, like Sen. Travis Little, D-Corinth, have political aspirations and a disliking of the current establishment.

Will Barbour run? He knows, and others are guessing. And when he announces, “it’s going to be big.”

Sam R. Hall is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3552 or by e-mail to