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DAVID DALLAS: Mississippi Republicans speak on the GOP presidential candidates



Some of the nation’s best and brightest Republican operatives call Mississippi home. Of course, the biggest of the best and brightest is our former Governor and Yazoo City native, Haley Barbour. The former Chairman of the RNC and successful lobbyist, Barbour knows a thing or two about politics.

Barbour says there are “no true frontrunners” in the GOP Primary. He cautioned about paying too much attention to polls. “Especially polling at this stage of the nominating process,” Barbour said. With the primaries still months away, Barbour knows these Trumped-Up numbers can change.

Consider early polling in previous GOP primaries found the likes of Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee on top.

When asked about candidates Rand Paul and John Kasich, who are languishing in the polls now, Barbour believes, “They or other candidates could make a move. Several of the candidates have very strong records of accomplishment.”

Clarke Reed, the former state Chair of the Mississippi Republican Party, likes the field of candidates. Reed’s importance to the Republican Party nationally rivals Barbour’s. A true King Maker, for more than 40 years, “have we cleared it with Clark?” was one of the most important questions a Republican presidential hopeful could ask.

Reed is pleased with how the Republican Presidential primary is shaping up. He believes the GOP will be able to take the White House in 2016. The numbers look favorable for Republicans, Reed says, “it’s breaking that way.”

“Hillary is not going to be able to overcome her low trust factor,” Reed said. Reed may prove correct. You can count on her trust numbers getting worse as hundreds of millions of PAC dollars will be spent on red-meat ad campaigns. No explanation or nuance will be needed. They will simply bang home words like “Benghazi” and “Emails.”

“I have never seen such a large group of good candidates,” Reed said of the GOP field. He believes Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio all have the potential to win the nomination and the Presidency. Of the long shots, Reed believes Rick Perry of Texas is strongest. “Most all of them I could live with.”

Hayes Dent, President of the lobbying group Public Strategies and another Yazoo City native, also believes candidates who are behind in the polls now will find “a window of opportunity” to appeal to voters. Dent has worked on national and state campaigns for years and was a candidate for Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional seat. Dent, also, mentioned Rick Perry as a dark horse.

“I wouldn’t rule him out.” Dent said, recognizing that Perry is often painted as a far right candidate. “The GOP has been cautious about nominating a perceived far-right candidate for the office of President.” Still, Perry and those Texas electoral votes make him viable, as well as a strong VP choice.

Dent is hopeful the window of opportunity exists for at least one other candidate. “We have to get the country working again and to stop fearing private business and industry.” Dent believes the best candidate to deliver that message is Ohio Governor John Kasich. Kasich’s record as governor looks much better than that of the other former GOP governor candidates, including Wisconsin’s Walker and New Jersey Chris Christie.

“Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is another attractive candidate.” However, Dent pointed out that, “plenty of Americans may think Libertarian, but they won’t actually vote Libertarian.”

Dent is being kind. Plenty of Americans like to think they are Libertarian, when they are actually just fed-up with how they see government working. This is particularly true among GOP voters on a steady diet of Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and other right-wing ranters.

Enter the Donald, perhaps the most authentic expression of today’s angry Republicans. Early they may be, the polls tell the story. The  uglier Donald Trump behaves, the more honest he appears to a fan base of disgruntled Americans. That fan base grows larger each day. Those first-time voters having grown up on reality T.V., can say they cast their first presidential vote for Donald Trump.

Reed believes the only thing Republicans need to fear is The Donald running as a Third Party candidate. “He’s got an enormous ego,” Reed said. “He’s not going away.”

“Trump will either implode or go independent.” Dent said. “If he runs independent, it will guarantee a Clinton victory.”

Gov. Barbour said history would repeat itself. “If he runs as a third-party or independent candidate for President, it would elect the Democrat nominee (presumably Mrs. Clinton), just as Ross Perot elected the Democrat in 1992.”

When asked if he thought Trump would run independent, Barbour said, “I can’t believe Donald Trump or any other moderate or conservative would want to effectively give Barack Obama and his failed policies a third term.”

Much like Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel, Donald Trump is a the Frankenstein monster the GOP media machine has created. The only difference: McDaniel is sincere in his Tea Party beliefs, Trump looks and sounds like he’s just grabbing tomorrow’s headlines. He may not care who wins as long as he is in the middle of it all.

Dent spoke to Trump’s manipulating the media instead of doing the real work needed to actually win the nomination. “He does not have a team of people working for him in primary states. He is not spending money on a ground game to get out the Trump vote.”

So what game is the Donald playing? He may end up securing the White House for Hillary, but that doesn’t much concern GOP voters, at least for now. Trump has tapped into far-right furor better than Perry, Santorum, Cruz, or even, Baptist-preacher-turned-Holocaust-analyst, Mike Huckabee.

“He’s admitted to having more Democratic sensibilities than Republican.” Dent said, questioning Trump’s Republican credentials. With good reason, Trump has said the American economy runs better under Democratic leadership. He’s given large contributions to the Clinton campaigns and their foundation. Hillary had a front-row seat at one of Trump’s nuptials. More importantly, Trump seems to relish insulting everyone in the GOP establishment.

“He can make fun of whoever he wants.” Dent pointed out, “He loses nothing. He doesn’t have to play politics with folks when it is all over. He’s got money.” The kind of money other candidates desperately need in our post Citizens-United world.

An establishment attempt to take Trump down risks alienating the most passionate members of the voting base, voters the GOP must have to win in November. But if Trump wins the nomination, he likely loses the general election to Hillary. Polling suggests he would even lose to Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders.

Barbour does not believe there is any danger of Sanders taking the Democratic nomination from Hillary. “If she loses, it would not be to Sanders, but to another liberal Obama loyalist such as Vice-President (Joe) Biden or Secretary (John) Kerry.”

Quick to paint every Democrat with the deadly Obama brush, Barbour is probably right: Biden and Kerry will jump into the race if Hillary continues to slide. But Bernie Sanders has gotten individual campaign contributions from far more Americans and is pulling larger crowds than any other Presidential candidate, including Trump.

“Sanders?” Reed sounded incredulous. “I don’t think it’s conceivable Sanders could win the Democratic nomination,” he said. He felt it was even less conceivable Sanders could win the Presidency.

“But one thing about this business,” Reed laughed, “it’s full of a lot more surprises than certainty.”

» David Dallas is a political writer. He worked for former U.S. Sen. John Stennis and authored Barking Dawgs and A Gentleman from Mississippi.


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  1. David, your comment regarding Hillary, that “No explanation or nuance will be needed. They will simply bang home words like “Benghazi” and “Emails” may be true if she keeps stonewalling. True believers think that “it doesn’t matter” just as they did about her husband’s bj’s, but thinking voters believe an explanation is due on both counts. It was only Bills misrepresentation under oath that got him in trouble. It’s much like the old saying “if he’d just burned the tapes at the outset Nixon would have gone down as a great president”. Good article, as usual.

  2. Haley is a RINO!

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