Barbour and Daniels: Friends or Foes?

Thursday, 30 Dec 2010 11:11 AM

By Dan Weil

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Republican Govs. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Mitch Daniels of Indiana have developed a close friendship over the years. But that friendship will be put to the test if both run for president in 2012, as many in Washington expect, Politico reports.

barbour, daniels, presidential, raceThe two aren’t just friends in “the political sense, the way fellow senators disingenuously refer to one another during floor debate, but pals who truly like each other, and have a long-standing, personal relationship,” the news service states. “It’s a non-transactional friendship that’s uncommon in the rarefied air of national politics.”

The governors first become buddies in their 30s, when both worked in the Reagan White House. Barbour served as political director, while Daniels was in charge of governmental affairs. With Barbour's wife Marsha staying in Mississippi with the couple’s two boys, he often spent weekends watching football with Daniels and his wife Cheri at their Northern Virginia home.

And when the Daniels family went back to Indiana, the Barbours would visit for events such as the Indianapolis 500 or NCAA Final Four. The couples have children about the same age — two boys for the Barbours and four girls for the Daniels'.

"The Barbour boys were crazy about the Daniels girls," Haley Barbour tells Politico. Says his buddy Daniels: "He [Haley] was like family, and then eventually his family was like family."

Barbour and Daniels have something else in common: on the surface they don’t look like very attractive presidential candidates. Barbour is a chubby former lobbyist from the Deep South, while Daniels often seems to treat charisma as a four-letter word.

But the Republican presidential field is wide open, and the last two Democratic presidents have seemingly come out of nowhere to the oval office.

As for Barbour and Daniels, “There is a remarkable symmetry to their careers — two Washington political operatives who went home and became governor — but they’ve always been allies,” Politico reports. “Until perhaps now.”

So could there be a battle between buddies, and what would it look like? Daniels isn’t sure he’ll run if Barbour does. "My first inclination would be to help Haley," he says. "It would be unusual [if we both ran]. On every past occasion, we've been teammates."

Barbour isn’t quite as worried. "If I thought we would have some falling out, it would [bother me]. But I really don't think we would have a falling out. I think too much of him."

Barbour says he even encourages Daniels to run. "I told him that, even if I run, you ought to run," Barbour says "The public needs more good choices."

Both governors say they won’t officially announce their decisions until spring.

A new poll from CNN/Opinion Research Corp. shows ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leading the field of potential Republican presidential candidates for 2012. Two-thirds of Republicans say they will likely support him in what would be his second straight presidential campaign.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who also ran for president in 2008, placed second at 59 percent, followed by 54 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and 49 percent for ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

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