- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour says the GOP is lucky that the “tea party” movement didn’t form a third party, and describes Democrats as running from President Obama like “scalded dogs.”

The Mississippi governor also is confident in his party’s gubernatorial candidates and their ability to get out the vote, even though they’ve had to overcome a lackluster fundraising performance by the Republican National Committee.

“We have to come up with about $10 million that normally would have been pushed into the governors’ races by the RNC, largely through state parties,” says Mr. Barbour, whose RGA is the national party’s official gubernatorial campaign committee.

With 37 governorships up this year - 26 now held by Democrats - and the prospect of controlling the upcoming redistricting of congressional seats, both the RGA and its Democratic counterpart have set fundraising records this year. The RGA raised nearly $58 million in the first half of 2010, while the Democratic Governors Association raised $40 million.

“I am glad that the tea party movement recognized that the Republican Party is where we need to be,” he says, adding that it would have been “far worse” for the GOP had tea party candidates run as independents.

“I hope they would continue in the next cycle to run as Republicans, and I believe they will, because I believe the evidence is clear that they got a fair shake,” Mr. Barbour says, noting that the RGA this year followed its past policy of not picking sides in primary election contests.

As for whether Mr. Obama is a help or hindrance for Democratic candidates this year, Mr. Barbour said, “Democrats are running from him like scalded dogs. If you look at when he goes somewhere, the real question is [whether] the Democratic candidate for governor is going to show up, or is he going to have a root canal that day so he can get out of going.”

While the RNC has had to trim its fundraising goals for the midterm elections, the RGA has been gathering donations at a record pace. The RNC reported raising $5.3 million in July, less than half the nearly $12 million the DNC reported for the same period.

Asked to respond to Mr. Barbour’s remarks, Doug Heye, a spokesman for RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele, sent these words Mr. Steele said last week about his Delaware-to-Hawaii plans to field a ground operation to identify and get voters to the polls.

“The Republican National Committee has made it a priority to build upon the RNCs traditional victory program and expand its reach into all 50 states through the Delaware-to-Hawaii (D2H) Victory plan,” Mr. Steele said.

“Republican volunteers can expect to find at least one Republican Victory Center and a paid staffer in each of the 118 targeted congressional districts, including 100 districts held by Democrats,” he said, adding that to date, “the Victory program has made over 9 million volunteer voter contacts in 2010, nearly three times the 2.7 million voter contacts made at this point in the 2008 presidential cycle.”

In anticipation of Mr. Barbour’s possible 2012 presidential nomination run, liberal Democrats have been hammering Mr. Barbour over his past employment as a lobbyist.

But the Yazoo, Miss., native says he is proud of having been a successful lobbyist, because lobbying is what a president does with Congress and foreign governments on behalf of policies he thinks are in the interests of citizens of the United States. What’s more, his past lobbying helped him argue for help for his state in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“I’m a lawyer, a lobbyist and a politician - that’s a trifecta,” Mr. Barbour told reporters Wednesday over a Christian Science Monitor breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington.

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