Barbour: Romney "not a true frontrunner"

Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on CBS' "Face the Nation," Nov. 13, 2011.

Despite Mitt Romney's consistently placing at or near the top in polls of the GOP presidential field, Governor Haley Barbour, R-Miss., says he's "not a true frontrunner" - even if he is "the best known of our candidates."

Barbour, in a Sunday appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," said there is no real frontrunner amid the 2012 GOP candidates, in part because he thinks Republicans are more focused on unseating President Obama than picking a candidate who shares their views.

"This [election] reminds me of a lot of past Democratic presidential contests, like Jimmy Carter in '76, Bill Clinton in '92, where there is not really a frontrunner," Barbour said. "Mitt Romney is the best known of our candidates. Not a true frontrunner. What we see people doing more than I've ever seen in my life is, instead of saying which one agrees with me most, which one do I like the most, they're saying, which one has the best chance to beat Obama?"

Barbour said voters are "going through 'Cinderella trying on the slipper' with the other candidates in the field, but that ultimately "after we've gone through that cycle, people will seriously focus on, is it really Romney who is the most electable or is there somebody else that has come out there that I think has the best chance to beat Obama?

"This election is about President Obama's policies and his record," Barbour told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "Whoever we nominate will get elected."

According to a recent CBS News poll, however, 58 percent of Republican voters actually believe it's more important to have a nominee who agrees with them on the issues than one who can beat Mr. Obama next year. Thirty-nine percent said it was most important to select the candidate with the best chance of ousting Mr. Obama.

The same survey shows that Republicans believe Romney is the most electable candidate by a significant margin - yet he still trailed Herman Cain in the poll's overall approval rating.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also appearing on "Face the Nation," said he thinks Texas Governor Rick Perry still has a chance for a comeback - despite several faltering debate performances.

"He did better last night," Graham said, of Perry's performance in Saturday's CBS News/National Journal Republican presidential debate. "I think it was a reassuring debate. I thought he was very good on foreign policy."

Plus, Graham added, Perry has "time and money."

"If you've got time and money, anything can happen in politics," he said. "He has a good record, being the Texas governor. He needs more good debates, but Newt [Gingrich] was gone just a couple of months ago. I've been with McCain where he was out, sixth in a five-person race. You never know what's going to happen.

"He has time and money and talent. I think he can come back," Graham said.

Also appearing on the show, GOP contender and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who has never broken double-digits in the national polls, said it's still too early for voters to coalesce around a single candidate.

"I think it's not unusual at this point in the campaign," Huntsman told Schieffer. "I think for the most part, people are just beginning to tune in. That's why I like our [campaign's] chances. People say 'You're lower in the polls, what gives? And how are you going to handle this?' I say, toward the end of December, towards early January, even in a state like New Hampshire, people don't begin coalescing around the candidates until about 10 days before the vote. So you're going to see continuing positioning on the part of the candidates for the next couple of weeks."

Graham said he was confident Mr. Obama would lose the election no matter what.

"I know we're going to win because the policies that he enacted, President Obama enacted in his first two years, have damned this economy for now and in the future," he said. "So we need a solid person on the economy, someone who will ... not make poll-driven decisions. He's going to be a one-term president if we get a solid nominee."