Haley Barbour from Mississippi says he's not running for the Republican nomination. But, then again, he's speaking in Iowa.
The newly-named chairman of the Republican Governors Association pitched a message of inclusion to a crowd of party activists at a major summer event in Des Moines Thursday night, one of many preludes to the presidential campaign of 2012.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former national party chairman and a key architect of electoral successes by the party nationally in the 1990s, urged Republicans to equally disdain the “liberal media elite” and “purists” in their own party who would run out members with different views on issues like abortion.
“There are tens of millions of pro-choice Republicans who are just as good as Republicans as I am,” Barbour told the audience at Hoyt Sherman Place. (Barbour is pro-life.) Barbour keynoted the Iowa GOP’s “Night of the Rising Stars” — an event in which several Iowa Republican legislators who were spotlighted focused heavily on their opposition to abortion. About 1,000 people attended the fundraiser.
Barbour said politics is about addition and multiplication, and that those with differing views on abortion in his party needed to work together. “Don’t think that’s giving up your principles,” Barbour said.
Barbour said Republicans have to reach out to independents or Democrats in Iowa to have a fighting chance. According to the Associated Press, voter registration in Iowa as of June 1 showed 684,443 registered Democrats, compared with 577,645 Republicans. Iowans who registered without a party preference outnumbered both groups, with 694,397 people.
The big-tent abortion comments were met largely with silence. State Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, said after the event that he could not think of one Republican legislator in Iowa he would consider pro-choice — although he said many politicians have “shadings” on the issue.
Barbour — who said he was in Iowa on a party rebuilding mission, not to test the presidential waters for 2012 — said the Republican Governors Association views Iowa as a prime opportunity next year. “I am more and more encouraged about our chances here,” Barbour said.
He said Republicans in Iowa and nationally can rely on the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama for fund-raising purposes. “This is the most far-left presidential administration with the most far-left House of Representatives,” Barbour said.
Barbour said a “cap and trade” plan now under consideration in Congress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would amount to major tax on the American people as the costs for utilities switching energy production portfolios quickly would be passed on to ratepayers. He said such a plan, if passed, would be at odds with Obama’s campaign pledge not to raise taxes on those families who make less than $250,000 annually.
“I did not know that everybody who had a lightswitch at their house made more than $250,000,” Barbour said.
The Obama administration says new energy technologies will provide a major boost to the economy, creating new, higher-paying jobs while improving the environment. Earlier, at a news conference, Barbour said he didn’t believe South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford should resign in the wake of an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina.
“I just don’t think he should,” Barbour said, when pressed. “He’s been a good governor for the state.” Added Barbour: “I just don’t see it as a hanging offense.”
Barbour did get a laugh out of the scandal in his speech when he introduced himself as chairman of the GOP governors association. “Yesterday morning I was vice chairman,” said Barbour who replaced Sanford in the top slot.