Barbour: GOP pick may come from Nowheresville

Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Miss., on 'Face the nation," Sunday, June 5, 2011.
CBS

Polls show Republican voters are unimpressed with the current field of GOP presidential candidates, but Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said today the winning candidate could still be hiding out in "Nowheresville."

"The fact of the matter is, this field includes people who have been very successful as governors; a former Speaker of the House; people who have been successful in business," Barbour said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "But a lot of them are not very well-known. That's what presidential nominating contests are about. As I say, Barack Obama came from Nowheresville at this time [in the election cycle] to being president."

Barbour pointed out that not only was then-Sen. Obama largely unknown before the 2008 presidential race, but Bill Clinton was also the target of harsh criticism ahead of his 1992 election as president.

"I think the same thing can happen for us if the election is about Obama's policies and the results of those policies," Barbour said. "That's the key for the 2012 campaign for Republicans."

The governor said he expects other candidates to jump into the GOP primary - possibly Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, or former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman - and that the field could look more complete in the fall.

When asked if he could support a Republican ticket with Palin at the top, Barbour replied, "If Barack Obama was the head of the other ticket... No question about that."

He said the president's policies have led to bloated government and have hurt job creation.

"When government is sucking trillions of dollars out of the economy, there is no money on Main Street," he said. "Wall Street may be doing all right, but there's no money on Main Street. That's where the jobs come from."

Barbour also stood by his previous charge that President Obama has been intentionally driving up energy prices. He said there's "no question" that's the case.

"This administration's policy clearly has been to drive up the cost of energy so Americans would use less of it," he said. He pointed to remarks Steven Chu made in 2008, before he became Energy Secretary. Chu said gas prices should be higher [though he changed his position upon joining the Obama administration].

"Why should we be surprised when his Secretary of Energy said in 2008 what we really need in the United States is to get the price of gas up to where it in Europe?" Barbour said. "They may need that in Berkeley, but not in Biloxi."

While he criticized the president for growing government, Barbour said a good Republican candidate shouldn't rule out raising taxes - as long as it were part of a compromise that included spending cuts and other policies that would lead to growth. He pointed to Ronald Reagan as an example of such a leader.

"I wouldn't say I won't support somebody for president who would do that because, like Ronald Reagan, that may be the best we can get for the country," he said.

Similarly, Barbour said it was important for his party to unite behind their presidential candidate and dismiss calls for ideological purity.

"Purity in politics is a loser. Unity in politics is a winner," he said. "My old boss Ronald Reagan used to say, 'Remember, a fellow that agrees you with 80 percent of the time is your friend and ally, not 20-percent traitor.'

Warning against candidates that might split the vote among conservatives, Barbaour said, "It was always amazing to people how many people who didn't agree with Reagan on this issue or that issue voted for him every time. We've got to be like like that."