East Meets West: Haley Barbour Visits Nevada, Confirms Likely Presidential Run

Mississippi’s sixty-third governor today visited Nevada, a state which has been called “the Mississippi of the west”* because of its largely unskilled workforce and poor public education system.

Governor Haley Barbour, who is term limited, said he “doesn’t see a big (political) difference” between Western and Southern Republicans, either, a contention that will be tested at the Nevada polls if he takes a shot at landing himself in the Oval Office.

Barbour met with Republican party leaders, lobbyists, select legislators and Governor Brian Sandoval, planting his political flag in the state third on the presidential primary calendar.

“I’m here because I’m thinking about running for president,” Barbour frankly told reporters gathered at the Plaza Hotel in Carson City. Operatives in Washington D.C. say he is running and will probably announce sometime in April.

In a brief Q&A session, Barbour rejected the suggestion that Nevada is “a lock” for Mitt Romney and said he plans to compete in Nevada.

Barbour said he didn’t ask Governor Sandoval to support his presidential bid, adding that Nevada’s new chief executive should probably “keep his powder dry” at least until after the caucuses.

On the Issues

When asked about legislation he signed to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine products, a law also being considered here in Nevada, Barbour said the “minor inconvenience” to Sudafed users was worth it and that the restrictions are “working” because arrests are down. Pseudoephedrine is commonly found in cold medications and is the key ingredient for cooking methamphetamines.

Barbour supported storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain because “we’ve been collecting taxes for that specific purpose” and said he didn’t think that position would hurt his candidacy here.

When it comes to legalized prostitution, an issue over which Senate Majority Leader and native Nevadan Harry Reid recently stirred controversy, Barbour said that choice is up to Nevadans.


Barbour’s entry into politics began his senior year of college when he worked on Richard Nixon’s 1968 election campaign. He also ran the 1970 census for the state of Mississippi, later graduating with his law degree from University of Mississippi School of Law.

Barbour quickly moved up the ranks of Republican organizing, running Gerald Ford’s 1976 campaign in the Southeast. In 1982 Barbour was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate but was defeated by the Democratic incumbent despite an endorsement by President Ronald Reagan. He later served as an aide in the Reagan Administration and worked on the 1988 Presidential campaign of George H. W. Bush.

Barbour served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1993 to 1997. During his tenure, the GOP captured both the Senate and House for the first time since 1954.

Barbour was elected the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association in June of 2009 following the resignation of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

Barbour’s father was the third governor of Mississippi as well as a U.S. Senator.


*Update: A media colleague helpfully explains that Nevada has been called “the Mississippi of the west” in the past for reasons having to do with strained race relations in the 1950s and 60s. Guy Rocha, former Nevada State Archivist, has an interesting post that explains.