Q&A with GOP official Haley Barbour

At a September 8 Monitor breakfast, Mississippi Governor and Republican Governor's Association chairman Haley Barbour discussed the current political climate, his background as a lobbyist, and President Obama.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
At a September 8 Monitor breakfast, Governor Haley Barbour discussed the 2010 political climate.

Haley Barbour is governor of Mississippi and chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Politico recently described him as "the most powerful Republican in American politics – at least for the next three months." He was the guest at the Sept. 8 Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C. Current political environment:

"The environment is as good [for Republicans] as it's ever been in my career.... Still, nothing is done till it is done, and we've got to run hard through the finish line if we are going to have good results."

Democratic candidates and President Obama:

"Democrats are running from him like scalded dogs. When he goes somewhere, the real question is, is the Democrat candidate for governor going to show up, or is he going to have a root canal that day so he can get out of going?

Whether Republicans are trying to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment as a political tactic, using the planned Islamic Cultural Center near ground zero:

"I don't see it. But I will tell you this: Any issue that takes people's eye off of unemployment, job creation, economic growth, taxes, spending, deficits, debts is taking your eye off the ball. That is what the American people are concerned about; it is what [they] don't like about the Democrats."

Why a recent poll showed 18 percent of Americans think, erroneously, that Mr. Obama is a Muslim:

"I don't know why people think what they think. This is a president that we know less about than any other president in history.... I accept just totally at face value that he is a Christian. He said so throughout the time he has been in public life. That's good enough for me. Do I think there is a vast right-wing conspiracy? No ma'am."

Democrats' plans for Michelle Obama to appear at key races this November:

"She is a gracious, attractive, very bright lady.... I think she will be very well received everywhere in the country.... I don't think it would have any effect on the outcome of any elections."

Whether his background as a tobacco lobbyist would harm him in a potential bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012:

"I am a lawyer, a lobbyist, and a politician. That is the trifecta of what Americans think about public life…. Advocacy – whether it is in the courtroom, like I did when I was a young lawyer, or lobbying – is something that presidents have to be very good at.... So I don't shy away from my career as a lobbyist."

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