Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is set to become the Republican Party's most powerful person, veteran journalist Carl Bernstein predicted Thursday.
"Let's go with the facts. Probably the next important person in the Republican party today is Haley Barbour," Bernstein told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
And, Bernstein said, he is convinced Barbour will use his influence to get New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie the party's presidential nomination in 2016.
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"Haley Barbour is going to come out in some way, in the next few months, for Chris Christie. He sees Chris Christie as a winner," Bernstein predicted.
Barbour, 66, was at the peak of his political influence as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1993-1997, then went on to serve two terms as governor of Mississippi.
His tenure, though, ended in controversy when he granted pardons, clemency, or early release
to more than 200 prisoners, including 19 murderers.
At the time, conservatives predicted the end of his influence in the party.
Christie, a Republican, won a landslide victory Tuesday for a second term in a decidedly Democratic state.
His views, mixed with a willingness to work across party lines, are seen as a more moderate reflection of the Republican Party, when contrasted with tea party conservatives.
There's hope for the "creation of a responsible modern Republican party," Bernstein said, after the "craziness of the last year," in a reference to the party's right-wing members and their push to defund Obamacare.
"It goes back to what I was saying about the creation of a responsible modern Republican party, which they finally have a shot at after the craziness of the last year," he said.
That tea party push to defund Obamacare, an effort that ultimately led to the government shutdown, pushed Republicans "off the ledge," Bernstein maintained. He argued the backlash from the shutdown caused "elders of the party" to embrace "real Republican roots."
"They went off the ledge. And, finally the elders of the party said, 'Wait a minute. If we're going off the ledge with these folks . . . let's go back to some real Republican roots. And we have a chance of it in this country now,'" Bernstein said.
"Responsible opposition" among Democrats and Republicans would be good for the country, he said.
"The idea of a responsible opposition on both sides would be one of the best things that could happen to this country in the last 40 years," Bernstein said.
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