Opinion: Haley Barbour announces he won’t be running for president

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Haley Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chairman and current Mississippi governor, announced Monday that he will not seek the GOP nomination for president.

‘I will not be a candidate for president next year,’ Gov. Barbour, 63, wrote in a statement issued to reporters and later posted on his website. ‘This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided.’


Although many believe Barbour could win the GOP nod, some felt that certain statements he made during a Weekly Standard interview in late 2010, as well as not immediately condemning a proposal to put a former Ku Klux Klan leader on a Mississippi license plate a could derail any chance he would have against the first black U.S. president because the statements revolved around the touchy subject of race.

‘I don’t go around denouncing people. That’s not going to happen,’ Barbour initially said when pressed by the state NAACP to decry a proposal that would put Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest on a license plate. Forrest eventually became an early leader of the Klan.

Barbour later said that if the state passed the proposal, endorsed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, he would kill it. ‘The bureaucracy denied it, the legislature won’t pass it and if the legislature passes it, it won’t become law because I won’t sign it,’ the governor said .

Barbour also found himself in hot water when he told the Standard that he was too busy looking at girls to pay attention to a speech of a civil rights icon. ‘I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ‘62,’ Barbour told the Standard. ‘He spoke out at the old fairground, and it was full of people, black and white.’

‘The truth is, we couldn’t hear very well. We were sort of out there on the periphery,’ Barbour said. ‘We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do. We paid more attention to the girls than to King.’

Earlier in the piece, Barbour praised Citizens’ Councils, segregationist groups that encouraged white families to send their children to private schools so as to avoid black children. Later, under fire, Barbour called those councils ‘indefensible’.

Dan McLaughlin, an editor of the conservative blog Red State, tweeted soon after the Standard feature that even though Barbour could win the nomination, he’d have a hard time becoming commander-in-chief.


‘Fact #1: Haley Barbour may be the best potential POTUS in GOP field,’ McLaughlin wrote. ‘Fact #2: a white man his age from MS may not be electable, as such.’

Indiana governor Mitch Daniels said Monday that he would have supported Barbour’s bid. ‘Haley Barbour is a great citizen; he’d have made a great president,’ Daniels said in a statement. ‘I’d have been proud to try to help him had he chosen to run.’


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-- Tony Pierce