The Washington Post

Haley Barbour, man of the South

The current Republican field of potential presidential candidates is sorted into the known and unknown. Mississippi governor Haley Barbour falls into the second category. Almost six in 10 Republican and GOP-leaning independents are unable to rate him, placing him in the same company as other GOP hopefuls such as former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, the outgoing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and Indiana governor Mitch Daniels.

Despite Barbour’s reputation as a well-connected insider of the Republican establishment, in a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll only 26 percent of Republicans say they have a favorable impression of him and 16 percent unfavorable. One place where Barbour does distinguish himself from others is in his native South, where he is better known and better liked than in other parts of the country. There he is rated at 32 percent favorable compared with 23 percent in non-Southern regions of the country. 

Being a native son of the South isn’t enough to push Barbour higher at the moment. Not with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee under consideration. Huckabee is in the top half of potential candidates and is much better recognized than Barbour. He is the most popular candidate in the South by far, with 72 percent favorable ratings.

 Barbour is not a clear winner if Huckabee decides not to run. As of now, those who have positive views of Huckabee are about as likely to have favorable views of Barbour as they are for another potential Southern candidate, Newt Gingrich.

 Barbour has stepped away from other Republicans on support for the war in Afghanistan. As of now, his popularity is no different among Republicans who support or oppose the war.

Peyton M. Craighill is polling manager for the Washington Post. Peyton reports and conducts national and regional news polls for the Washington Post, with a focus on politics, elections and other social and economic issues.


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