Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s decision against mounting a 2012 White House bid surprised political observers and political leaders alike.
New Hampshire conservative leader Ovide Lamontagne shared with Roll Call the details of some private moments with the Republican during Barbour’s trip to Manchester earlier in the month.
“It seemed like he was starting to get geared up. I had every reason to believe that we were going to see him again,” Lamontagne told Roll Call on Monday after Barbour’s announcement. “There was a sense of optimism about the way he comported himself that suggested he was going to do this.”
Barbour’s top New Hampshire consultant, Mike Dennehy, formally learned of the decision Monday. Although he said he was disappointed in Barbour’s move, Dennehy said that the governor had always been up front about his intentions.
“From his very first call to me, he said, ‘I’d love your involvement of helping me seriously consider running … but you have to know I may not end up doing this,’” Dennehy said. “I did get excited about him. But hey, it’s politics. There’s ups and downs.”
Barbour’s move could affect Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels more than any other potential Republican presidential candidate. It was long assumed that Barbour and Daniels, longtime friends, would not run against each other.
Operatives within other presidential campaigns believe that Daniels now has a limited window to jump into the race without signaling to the political community and donors that he is not a serious contender.
That’s particularly true given Daniels’ comments in a Washington Post story printed Monday:
“Asked where he was in his thinking, Daniels replied with a laugh, ‘Oh, muddled.’ Then he turned serious: ‘I don’t want to leave a misimpression. If we get in, we will go all out, and we know a little about how to do that. So reluctance or hesitation about running doesn’t mean we would be a reluctant candidate if we got there.’”
According to the Post, Daniels turned quiet when asked about family considerations — friends say his wife has been opposed. “I don’t have much more to say about that,” he told the Post. “It’s just a very important factor.”
Speaking with Roll Call, Lamontagne agreed that Daniels has a window but that he would have to move quickly to secure New Hampshire supporters, given that many activists have already committed to campaigns.
“I can see how someone who is a sitting governor might see this as an opportunity to get into the race. Mitch Daniels comes to mind,” Lamontagne said. “But I think time is running out.”
Now the race is on to earn Barbour’s endorsement.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) issued a statement lauding Barbour’s work at the Republican Governors Association and calling the governor “one of the Republican Party’s great leaders.”
“Nobody has done more than Haley to build the Republican Party over the last three decades,” Pawlenty said. “When Republicans defeat Barack Obama next year, it will be thanks to the solid party foundation Haley helped build.”