The First Draft: Haley’s comet
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford hurt many people when he spent the last weekend “crying in Argentina,” as he put it at a press conference yesterday.
There’s his family, of course, and his Republican Party, where he had emerged as a rising star.
But there is opportunity in every crisis, as Rahm Emanuel likes to say, and one man stands to benefit from Sanford’s downfall: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
Barbour took over as head of the Republican Governors Association yesterday after Sanford resigned the post. From this perch, he can burnish his credentials as a party leader and Washington outsider as he assesses a possible 2012 presidential bid.
Barbour, a former lobbyist, is a longtime party insider who headed the Republican National Committee from 1993 to 1997, a time when the party’s fortunes were rising.
He won high marks as governor for his response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in contrast to the chaos in neighboring Louisiana and at the federal level.
He opposed taking federal stimulus money earlier this year for unemployment benefits, saying it would eventually force the state to raise taxes. That stance won praise from conservatives worried about runaway spending, though it probably made him less popular with those down on their luck.
Party insider Ron Kaufman said Barbour’s reputation for competence could help restore a tarnished Republican brand.
“He’s got a very loyal group of people and now he’s proven he can govern. He’s a serious player,” said Kaufman, an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2008.
“If the byword for the 2008 elections was change, then the byword for 2012 is competence,” Kaufman told Reuters.
photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (Barbour at a dinner for the National Governors Association at the White House, Feb. 22)
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