Mississippi Gov. Rep. Haley Barbour addressed the Congressional Health Care Caucus on Capitol Hill in April. (Susan Walsh/AP)

American Crossroads, the well-funded conservative group that played a crucial role in the Republican wave election last year, is bringing rainmaker Haley Barbour on board and doubling its fundraising goal for the 2012 contest, the group announced late Thursday.

The “super PAC” and its nonprofit affiliate, Crossroads GPS, will aim to raise an eye-popping $240 million during the 2012 cycle, putting the alliance far ahead of its rivals on either side of the political spectrum. The groups raised a combined $71 million in 2010 and say they have exceeded their own goals by raising $24.5 million so far this year.

Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, is an influential former lobbyist who helped the Republican Governors Association raise a record amount of money in 2010. He briefly considered a presidential run this year.

Barbour will join former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove in helping raise money for the two Crossroads groups, organizers said.

“Both Governor Barbour and Karl Rove are prodigious fundraisers and brilliant strategists, and we are honored to have them both engaged with us,” said Steven Law, president of the two Crossroads groups. “We are reaching high in our fundraising goals because we believe this is going to be a destiny-shaping election for our country.”

Founded to take advantage of a Supreme Court ruling freeing restrictions on corporate spending on elections, the Crossroads groups were at the vanguard of outside-spending efforts last year. Two former aides to President Obama have formed a similar liberal organization for the 2012 elections, but it has had relatively limited success in raising money.

Both sides of American Crossroads can raise unlimited funds from individuals or corporations, but only the super PAC must disclose them publicly. The nonprofit Crossroads GPS was formed as a “social welfare” group that is prohibited from spending more than half of its resources on politics but is free to engage in issue advertising, polling and other activities.

The groups’ ambitious fundraising goals, as well as the relationship with Barbour, further complicate the political dynamics of the chaotic GOP nominating contest, which at the moment is centered on the rivalry between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. A swarm of new super PACs has sprouted to support each of the major contenders, while Crossroads has said it will sit out the primaries.

But Rove has been sharply critical of Perry — whose relations with Bush loyalists are strained — and Crossroads political director Carl Forti helped found a pro-Romney super PAC this year. At the same time, many donors loyal to Barbour, including his nephew, have signaled their intent to support Perry. Barbour has not made an endorsement.