PERRY/Barbour was never convinced
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 12:00 AM
A new book "Double Down: Game Change 2012," an expose on what happened behind the scenes during the 2012 presidential election and primaries was released on Tuesday by authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.
The sort-of sequel to their last book, "Game Change" on the 2008 campaign, brings to the reader the same high-level sources and trove of insider strategy that shows politicians on the highest level of competition have the same second-guessing, fears and dumb luck (good and bad) that most professionals on every level face in their careers.
The 2008 book was an enjoyable read for this Republican, at least the first two-thirds which focused mainly on the battles, insults and machinations between Democrats seeking the nomination: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I knew how it ended, but it was enjoyable to read. So while I know how their new book ends as well, I still look forward to reading the behind-the-scenes intrigue of "Double Down."
One chapter in particular describes the plans behind former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's consideration of running for president in 2012.
According to the authors, "Barbour had considered entering the 2008 field. Less than halfway through his first term as governor, he convened a secret meeting in Jackson of his closest advisers and his wife, Marsha, to start planning a White house run.
But then Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005 and blew it all away. Barbour realized he had no choice but to seek a second gubernatorial term to complete the recovery efforts."
Those efforts "won wide praise" and four years later talk about a Barbour began again. Barbour commissioned Scott Reed (Dole's 1996 campaign manager) to conduct self opposition research and see if a run would be feasible and whether he could win the nomination over those considering a run, like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The authors write, "To say Barbour and Romney were oil and water severely understated the case. Romney respected Barbour's political mind and instincts but was astonished by how much Haley drank. Barbour, meanwhile, respected almost nothing about Romney professionally, considered him self-centered, tin-eared, and inauthentic. 'The guy's never said a sentence to me that's spontaneous,' Barbour told his people." Barbour believed Romney's weakness would "attract a large, unruly field, and that'll be bad for the party."
The book describes conversations among Barbour, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Daniels and Barbour wanted Bush to run. Absent his entrance to the race, Daniels and Barbour each tried to convince the other to get in the race. Several governors were hesitant about Romney running including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. When Barbour told Kasich he was considering the run, Kasich signed up for Team Barbour "on the spot."
The book notes Barbour conducted a meet and greet on April 14 in New Hampshire, followed the next night by a speech to the Charleston County Republican Party in South Carolina (and winning their straw poll), had already stumped in Iowa, raised money in California, and presented a presidential style economic speech in Chicago. He looked primed to announce in May of 2011.
"He laid off the bourbon, losing twenty pounds, and slipped away to the Mayo Clinic in April to secure a clean bill of health," the authors write, "His trips to the early states were going well; he was receiving a warm reception for his stances on three big issues on which he planned to run on Romney's (and much of the party's) left: immigration reform, a fairly quick exit from Afghanistan, and cutting defense spending."
But Barbour himself wasn't convinced. He had seen former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson's 2008 campaign implode; didn't want to run based on ego like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and considered even a successful run a "life sentence" with two years to run, and potentially eight years to govern. He was concerned about his family and their lives.
"It would be hard for anybody from Mississippi to beat the first black president, Barbour told Daniels, who didn't disagree," the book recounts, "Barbour thought back to 2008 and how Katrina had dashed his plans. In presidential politics, he believed, your time only comes around once, and maybe that was it - maybe, Haley thought, he'd missed his moment."
On April 25, Barbour convened a conference call with his campaign and told them he didn't "have the fire in my belly to make this race."
There is more on Barbour's insights and impact on the 2012 campaign including his work on a "white-knight scenario" to recruit Daniels or Christie or another Republican to enter the race late, sweep the final states, and take the battle to the convention in Tampa to select the nominee. For those details and other juicy tidbits, you've got to read the book.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.