WASHINGTON — There are finally some rustlings on the hustings; you will pardon my attempt at poetry. Republican presidential hopefuls are moving about in Iowa and New Hampshire; does that clarify my admittedly amateur attempt at rhyme? I simply could not resist.
It was rather quiet out on the hustings a few weeks ago, and frankly, for me, it was a little gloomy. I have been saying for months that President Barack Obama is dead in the water. He will lose in 2012. He has no experience as a chief executive, and every day in every way, he is proving it. He is the most left-wing president in our history, and he is sedulously engaged in proving that left-wing politics are ill-suited for America or for any country that wants to prosper. Our president was a perfect inspirational speaker when there was something to be inspired about — for instance, the prospect of his presidency — but Americans have experienced it. He will lose in 2012 if the Republicans put up a plausible candidate. But even an implausible candidate has a chance, which, I suppose, is why Newt Gingrich is running.
Yet up until a week or so ago, we were hearing from the smart money boys that Obama could not be beaten, so the president was looking invincible. Perhaps he would run unopposed. But now it appears there will be a Republican in the race. Well, let me say it again: A Republican will present himself or herself, and if the candidate runs on sound ideas, Obama's next project will be creating a presidential library.
Gingrich is all but in the race for 2012. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is running. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey says he is not running, but he sure looks as if he is preserving himself as the available man. So does the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, and now creating rustlings on the hustings — it happened again, the unscotchable urge to rhyme — is Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi. He began the week with a talk to the Chamber of Commerce in, of all places, Chicago, soon to be home of the Barack Obama Presidential Library. He ended the week in, of all places, Iowa.
You will note that most of the candidates or possible candidates are or have been governors. That is to say, they are men with extensive experience at running things — as, by the way, Sarah Palin has run things. Maybe she will run. Being a governor is an excellent proving ground for being president, as Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan demonstrated. Most importantly, it gives them an opportunity for preparing budgets, dealing with bureaucracy and confronting human problems.
Barbour, while in Chicago, acknowledged the lousy economy that Obama inherited but then skewered the president for his two failed years in the White House: "It's not a failure of business or a failure of free enterprise; it's a failure of government policy." He went on to attack the Obama energy policy as a "perma-torium" on deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a piece on Barbour's potential candidacy to be published shortly in The American Spectator, Philip Klein quotes Ed Gillespie on the kind of candidate the governor is likely to be. "He's a policy wonk, which a lot of people don't realize," says the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. People "tend to think of Haley Barbour as very politically savvy and good on television and smooth, but he really is a policy wonk at heart." The piece goes on to report the wonk's doings. His steady hand during Katrina and the resurrection of the hurricane-wracked state. His proposals for immigration reform, entitlement reform and health care. And Klein asks him whether we could get our debt under control without raising taxes. Barbour answers: "I don't think it's possible if you raise taxes. You've got to grow revenue. You've got to have economic growth and more job creation. Higher taxes make that harder. ... My own view is that low taxes are essential to generating economic growth. ... Reagan used to say we can grow ourselves out of the deficit, and the Democrats would snicker. Well, I can tell you this: We can't spend ourselves out of this deficit."
"President Haley Barbour," it has a ring about it. Moreover, I would relish the debates preceding his election. A policy wonk who slips in a few "y'alls"? Let the race begin.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is "After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery." To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.