Gov. Haley Barbour’s growing national presence as a political force of nature and his status as an undeniable A-list potential Republican presidential contender has sparked a torrent of national media speculation and an explosion in the political blogosphere of so-called “Haley Watch” offerings.
For Mississippi’s intensely popular but term-limited two-term governor from Yazoo City, that’s the up side. The downside is that Barbour’s frequent absences from Mississippi for Republican Governors Association business, general GOP activism and fundraising and other legitimate travel associated with his job as governor of Mississippi are just that – frequent absences.
In politics, absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It emboldens the timid and inspires those who don’t march to the same political drummer to start their own parade with a new drum major.
To be certain, if Barbour could seek a third term as governor of Mississippi, the majority of state voters would elect him. Barbour popularity is not at issue.
But the more Barbour is absent from Mississippi and the stronger his presence in national politics, the weaker his presence becomes in state politics. For state legislators facing 2011 re-election bids in an anti-incumbent political environment, worries about keeping the favor of a lame duck governor would begin to lessen if Barbour were walking the halls of the Capitol daily. It’s politically inevitable.