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Haley Barbour's racial remarks leave 2012 candidacy in question

Now that the 2010 midterm elections are over, tongues have already started wagging over who the potential Republican presidential candidates may be in 2012.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 3:55 PM

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has come under fire for his comments on civil rights. As Krissah Thompson reported:

In a Weekly Standard magazine profile published Monday, Barbour said he didn't remember it "being that bad" and referred benignly to white groups called Citizens Councils, which were known to enforce segregationist policies throughout the South.

His office released a statement Tuesday morning backtracking from those remarks. "When asked why my home town in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns' integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn't tolerate it and helped prevent violence there," Barbour said in a statement Tuesday.

"My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the 'Citizens Council,' is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time."

As the prospective 2012 candidate attempts to shift attention away from his comments, The Fix gives this analysis of his chances of recovering in time for the presidential election:

So, how badly has Barbour hurt his presidential chances? There are two diametrically opposed answers to that question -- both of which have a grain of truth in them. The first is that he hasn't done any long term damage in the eyes of the voters who will decide the identity of the 2012 nominee.

Why not? Because chances are those voters are paying only the scantest attention to politics at the moment as the holidays rapidly approach.

That means that pronouncements about the episode derailing his chances at the nomination are likely overblown. The idea that something that happens more than a year before a single vote is cast in the nominating contest can be disqualifying seems far-fetched -- particularly given the remarkable political comebacks we have witnessed at the presidential level (Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, anyone?) in recent years.

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