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GOP consultant: Barbour possible presidential nominee, but winning odds are with Obama


Jason Browne



A Columbus lobbyist and political consultant is predicting a second term for Barack Obama, but says Haley Barbour may have the best shot of any Republican spoiler. 


Keith Heard, a Republican from Brooksville who now makes his home in Columbus, told the Columbus Rotary Club Tuesday, although it pained him to call the 2012 race for Obama, history and statistics are on the president''s side. 


First, he explained the American electorate''s long-standing preference for split government. With the exception of a handful of elections, Americans have consistently voted to install opposing parties in the White House and one or both of the House of Representatives and the Senate.  


"I believe the American public is very sophisticated. They don''t trust the Democrats and they don''t trust the Republicans either. They prefer to have two parties in place making decisions and not have extremes," said Heard. 


Second, with no clear Republican front-runner, Heard laid out the mathematical challenge confronting the Republican candidate for president. 


"Obama won in 2008 with 365 electoral votes. John McCain only had 173. You only need 270 to win. In (today''s) environment, the Republicans should win North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana. They never should have lost those in the last election but they did. At that point there''s 299 for Obama and 239 for the Republicans. Throw in Ohio, which is another state the Republicans could get, and you''re at 279 for Obama and 259 for the Republicans. At that point you''re battling over Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire, which are all tough states right now. 


"When you get down to hand-to-hand combat over electoral colleges, if one side is winning the big states and one side is winning little states, (Republicans) lose unless there''s a game changer," said Heard. 


And that game changer, he says, may be Mississippi''s self-described "fat redneck." 


"There''s really no Republican out there that can take on Obama. (Mitt) Romney has a shot. Sarah Palin, I think there''ll be enough baggage in place to be some issues there. (Barbour) would do well in Iowa, do OK in New Hampshire, do extremely well in South Carolina, has a fighting shot in Florida and once you''re done with those four states you''re in the game. And he can raise money," said Heard. "You can see him morphing from king maker to being in place and running. It''s similar to when he ran for Governor when he put his feelers out there." 


Heard didn''t offer odds on Barbour beating Obama head-to-head, but did predict Republican momentum would win the majority in the Senate in 2012. And Barbour himself may see that as the bigger accomplishment. Heard recalled his memories as a young man in Jackson on election night in 1980, the night Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter. 


"I''m sitting there with Haley Barbour and my father in Jackson. Haley said don''t worry about the president. We''ve won this. Look at what''s going on with the Senate seats across the country." 


If the voting scenario plays out as Heard expects, the Democrats will lose control of the Senate in 2012 just as they lost the house this year. Then, he says, congress can begin the process of dismantling the latest healthcare legislation. 


But meeting opposition in the house and senate may not be a bad thing for Obama. Heard says split government pushed Bill Clinton from a good to a great president, forcing him to work with Republicans to pass welfare reform and the North American Free Trade Agreement. 


Coincidentally, Clinton was back in the White House recently explaining Obama''s extension of George W. Bush''s tax cuts, which brought a smile to Heard''s face. 


"It sure was fun watching President Obama and Clinton defend the Bush tax cuts. It was true theater," he said. 


Heard believes Clinton''s presence also signals a more conservative approach for an administration which he says began with a radical liberal agenda. 


That agenda, coupled with Republican spending from Bush''s administration, gave rise to the tea party. Heard says the tea party''s presence and a few questionable candidates may have cost Republicans the chance to win the Senate. But at the same time, he says Republicans never would have had a shot at the Senate in the first place without the tea party.




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