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Political scientist: Barbour key to 2012 GOP race


Jason Browne



According to the director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, you, too, are a political scientist. 


"Everybody''s a political scientist," said Dr. William "Marty" Wiseman during his Tuesday address to the Columbus Rotary Club. "Everyone that watched the news with their morning coffee and complained about the government is a political scientist." 


In his jovial manner, Wiseman, father of Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, pointed out that nobody has all the answers. But he took a moment to share some of his musings with the Rotarians. 


Wiseman dove in headfirst by tackling the issue of the hour: The state budget. 


"This is the toughest job I''ve ever seen the Legislature have to deal with," Wiseman began. "They''re hemmed up by the budget with no way out." 


This year is different, he contends, because Gov. Haley Barbour and the Legislature won''t be bailed out by federal stimulus funds or emergency funds received following Hurricane Katrina. 


"Katrina made (Barbour) able to perform as admirably as he has," said Wiseman. 


Without federal assistance, Mississippi''s deficit could top $1 billion over the next 24 months. That''s bad for legislators who will be forced to revisit the issue next year, but the Governor is in good shape. 


"I see Haley as a good potential to be (Sarah) Palin''s Dick Cheney," said Wiseman. 


If Palin doesn''t split with the Republican party to represent an independent third party, such as the Tea Party, in the 2012 presidential race, Wiseman sees Barbour as the right man to shore up Palin''s perceived inexperience within the party. 


Barbour, a two-term governor and head of the Republican Governors Association, was credited with performing well after Hurricane Katrina, has been highly visible in recent gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia -- both Republican victories -- and figures to be a force in the remaining 37 races between now and 2012. 


"Who has more influence in states where Republicans are governor? He''s hugged more Republicans. He''s the best known," said Wiseman. "A Palin- or (Mitt) Romney-led ticket would have to look to the heart of the base. And who stands there but Haley Barbour?" 


Wiseman says Barbour may not possess the right combination of traits necessary to carry a presidential ticket, but he could put one over the top as a vice presidential candidate. 


"He will be subject to looking like a Boss Hogg character with a southern accent, but he has a lot of stroke in the party," said Wiseman. 


Barbour remains on top of state issues, as well. Wiseman pointed out how Barbour''s budget recommendations, released in September, have garnered much more press than the Joint Legislative Budget Committee''s December report when, in the past, the Governor''s report has been all but ignored. His suggestion to merge Mississippi University for Women with Mississippi State University could almost be taken as a challenge to the Legislature. 


Regardless who sets the agenda, Wiseman says education must remain a priority in this legislative session in order for Mississippi to progress. 


"We''re last in pupil expenditure, but we''re in the Top 10 in the percentage of tax dollars spent on education. There''s just not enough dollars to get us off the bottom," says Wiseman. 


Other hot topics for this legislative session will include Medicare and Medicaid, mental health funding and the Public Employee Retirement System. 


Turning his attention to national politics, Wiseman predicted a political chess game would play out in coming years. 


Although the majority-Democratic congress has received low approval ratings, Republicans could squander a golden opportunity to reclaim the House and the Senate if they don''t rally together over issues like health care. 


Dissatisfaction with both parties and a desire among voters to elect perceived moderates could benefit congressmen like District 1 U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, a Blue Dog Democrat. Wiseman says Republican challengers like Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, can''t rely on the district''s past voting record to steal the seat. 


"It''s going to be a very interesting and close race in the First District and the nation will keep an eye on it," said Wiseman. 


The same uncertainty holds true for the presidential election in 2012. If a popular candidate like Palin defects to the largely conservative Tea Party, Wiseman predicts it will divide Republican voters and likely lead to a second term for President Obama.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment JC commented at 1/6/2010 11:06:00 AM:

"I see Haley as a good potential to be (Sarah) Palin's Dick Cheney," said Wiseman.



Article Comment D.Matt commented at 1/7/2010 9:06:00 AM:

Barbour is no dummy! No way he attaches his hitch to Sarah Palin especially if she plans on lead a more conservative split of the current Republican Party.


Article Comment walter commented at 1/7/2010 12:26:00 PM:

The admission here and elsewhere that the funds from the so-called "Big Government" and big spending federal government bailed Mississippi's butt out of it fiscal difficulties is true. Yet, the state's Guvner is the most vocal politician on the planet, when it comes to bashing our federal government! Go figure!!!

If Barbour holds the key to the GOP's success in 2012, then it appears that hypocrisy is the rage of the times and the people of the state being blind-sided.

Unless the Guvner intends to send the federal dollars back, then he should stop his demagoguery and make a sincere effort to lead the state and all of her people into a brighter, non-racially divisive future. Personally, I'm still curious as to who, within the Republican Party, authored the nation's so-called war on drug policies that disproportionally targeted African Americans for more severe sentences (powder vs, crack). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that whoever envisioned and pushed the policy knew darn well that Blacks tend to vote Democratic and that the policy would diminish the voting strength of the Democratic Party nationally, but particularly in Mississippi where the percentage of African Americans in the population is approaching 40%.

Of course, the author of dastardly policy isn't so much a genius, as is the fact that Democratic leaders without the state and the nation, are so very naive. The South will rise again and blacks, while not re-enslaved, burdened with ex-convict or felony status, they're as closed as they can be, without actually being there.

If the Barbours of the world were only a threat to the future well-being of Blacks, perhaps, as un-Christian as it would be, whites could rejoice and back them 1,000%. However, given the threat to us all from beyond our shores, reactionary politicians in Mississippi and the rest of the state do whites and blacks a grave dis-service by continuing to foster racially divisive attitudes and policies.

Prayerfully, the Christian and conscious people of Mississippi will become more awake and act accordingly, soon. Barbour's impact on the GOP, and thus, us all, will be negative. Unless he embraces the change afoot within America and the world. How could he knock the federal government spending and at the same time Mississippians, as much as anyone, need all of the federal dollars they deserve and can get?


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