Bloomberg News

Barbour Says Romney Can Overcome Primary Attacks

March 24, 2012

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference on June 17, 2011 in New Orleans. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference on June 17, 2011 in New Orleans. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mitt Romney is likely to overcome resistance within his party in the next month and rally Republicans to his presidential candidacy, Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, said.

Even after a bitter primary contest, Romney will be able to rally conservatives against President Barack Obama in November, Barbour, a former Mississippi governor, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.

Romney is “finally a real front-runner,” said Barbour, who said he voted for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in his state’s primary, where Rick Santorum won Republicans.

While Romney’s Mormon religion may be a factor among Southern primary voters who supported other candidates, Barbour said, “There are 25,000 Southern Baptist preachers that will vote for a Mormon before they vote for Obama.”

Even the flap over an Etch A Sketch comment by Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, who likened the campaign’s ability to reset in the fall to a child’s toy, will pale in comparison with the attacks that come from Obama and his labor-union allies in the general election contest, Barbour said.


“They’re going to carpet-bomb him to try to disqualify him or to make him unacceptable, because Obama can’t run on his record,” Barbour said.

While “the incumbent president’s always the favorite,” Barbour said, “Barack Obama is a great uniter of Republicans” and the former Massachusetts governor won’t have to reach out to a member of the party’s conservative wing for his vice- presidential nominee.

“Republicans want him to pick the person who makes it the most likely he’ll win in November,” Barbour said. “I don’t think that he’s going to need to pick somebody from the right to gin up conservatives in our party.”

Barbour mentioned three potential Republican vice presidential possibilities, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett; Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who he said could help both in that pivotal state and with Latino voters; and Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, another swing state.

On health care, Barbour said Romney’s support of a requirement in Massachusetts for all residents to buy insurance or pay a penalty, the prototype for the federal plan that Republicans oppose, won’t hurt the candidate in November.

States’ Authority

With the U.S. Supreme Court holding three days of oral arguments on the Obama plan next week, Barbour said states, and not the federal government, can mandate that people buy health insurance -- just as they require drivers to carry auto insurance. Barbour said he wouldn’t support a Massachusetts- style health care plan in his own state “because I think it’s bad policy.”

Even as Barbour helps raise money for Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, a nonprofit group that doesn’t disclose its donors, he said it isn’t healthy for millions of dollars to be spent without the public knowing where they came from.

He suggested doing away with limits on campaign spending and just saying, “Look, any human being can contribute any amount of money that’s their money to any candidate, and a candidate has to report within 24 hours on the Internet.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at

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