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Focus on ousting Obama, former Mississippi governor tells ATA gathering

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told delegates to the ATA Management Conference and Exhibition that they must remain “focused” for the next four weeks as they hope for a change in the White House. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)

The Trucker Staff


LAS VEGAS — Haley Barbour stepped to the podium and cut straight to the chase.

“This is the most consequential presidential election in the lifetime of anybody in this room,” the former Mississippi governor told delegates at the 2012 American Trucking Associations Management Conference at Exhibition Monday.

But it didn’t stop there.

“This is highest stakes presidential election any of us have ever been through because the differences in the two candidates about the role of government, the size of government, the cost of government and the relationship of government with your business and the entire private economy,” he said, quickly adding that “the vision and beliefs of these two candidates are further apart than any two candidates of the two major political parties ever. That is just a cold fact.”

It is also fact that the membership of the nation’s largest trucking federation is a conservative group, most of whom are unhappy with the direction the Obama administration has taken the country, and moreso with the current state of many federal trucking regulations.

Its president and CEO, Bill Graves, like Barbour is a former Republican governor.

“You guys understand the stakes of this election and can’t sit on the sidelines,” Barbour said.

Urging the delegates to stay focused on sending the current administration home, Barbour pointed out the difficulty of unseating an incumbent president who defeated a member of the other party to win the White House.

“Only one time recently has an incumbent who won the White House from the other party lost re-election and that was Jimmy Carter,” Barbour said. “It is very unusual to defeat a president who won the White House away from the other side.”

Carter’s downfall started with infighting in his own party.

When they lose, the first harbinger of trouble is a fight for nomination within their own party, Barbour pointed out, noting the Sen. Edward Kennedy’s effort to wrest the nomination away from Carter kept Democrats from being able to launch an all-out attack on Ronald Reagan, who even some Republicans thought was a weak candidate.

“[President Barack] Obama has had none of that, which gives him another advantage,” Barbour said. “He can raise a pile of money in the spring and summer and not have to spend any of that to win the nomination.”

So, Barbour said, Obama could spend that money carpet bombing Mitt Romney, who had the GOP nomination wrapped up in April.

The former Mississippi chief executive admitted that the GOP contest for the nomination wasn’t very pretty.

“Nothing about it made anyone look good,” he said.

But nevertheless, Romney came out early with a lead, and the Democrats launched a media campaign to discredit Romney as a person.

“Did you notice it wasn’t about public policy, spending, taxes, healthcare … it was about Romney’s a bad person. He doesn’t understand people like you; he doesn’t care about people like you,” Barbour said.

It worked, and by July “you could see the deterioration,” Barbour said.

But Barbour doesn’t think the Democrats’ message will work.

“The more this election is about the horse race and process and campaign strategy and polling, the less it’s about policy,” Barbour said, and if that happens, Obama will lose.

Barbour, who is now working as a political strategist and consultant, says Republicans want to keep the campaign focused on policy.

The Republican Convention and the recent debates have brought polls almost together, Barbour noted.

Two have the race a dead heat; the other has Obama ahead by 1 point.

“That’s an aggregate lead of three-tenths of one point,” Barbour said.