Interview with RGA Chair, Gov. Haley Barbour

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - November 1, 2010

JUDY WOODRUFF: And now for the Republican point of view, as you just heard, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, he is chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

It's good to have you with us again.

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R-Miss.): Thank you, Judy. Glad to be back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, you were, I remember, chairman of the Republican Party back in 1994, when the Republicans swept the Congress. Does this feel it's a bigger sweep than it was then?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: Judy, for a year-and-a-half, the political environment has been better for Republicans in the 2009-'10 cycle than in the 1993-'94 cycle. The wind has been at our back for longer. The intensity has been greater, the enthusiasm higher.

Frankly, there's been a lot of anger and even fear, people who are worried that, if we don't change direction from the lurch to the left given us by Pelosi and Obama, that their children and grandchildren are not going to inherit the same country that they inherited from their parents and grandparents. I didn't see that in 1994. I didn't see that kind of honest fear that sort of -- just kind of motivates some of the...

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you think this year could be a bigger sweep for Republicans? Is that what you're saying?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: Well, it could be. It could be. Certainly, in the House, that's possible.

The difference is, this year, we got outspent pretty heavily. The labor unions saw this coming early, and they have poured money in to try to save Democrat seats. And it hasn't been any secret to the news media or the Democratic incumbents that this was going to be a hard year for them because the president's policies are unpopular.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we just heard Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic Party, say that what voters have faced this year is a choice between the president's policies and what the Republicans are putting forward. How do you see this election?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: Well, I think that's very fair of Tim. Tim and I served four years together as governors. And I have great affection for him and respect for him.

This, more than any midterm election that I can recall in my 40 years of politics, is a referendum on the Obama policies. And if the Republicans win the kind of victory that some people talk about, it will have been a repudiation of the Obama policies. All this spending, all these gigantic deficits, all this debt, taxes, the American people not only disapprove of that; they know it's not helping the economy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And yet we also see the polls show that voters have a net negative view of Republicans, something like 41 to 34 percent. How can voters both embrace Republicans and have a negative view of Republicans?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: This is very important for Republicans to understand.

If, in fact, people repudiate Obama's policies, like I expect them to, we Republicans still have to gain their trust. I mean, we -- we -- this is not them saying, golly, we loved you Republicans and we sure are sorry we let you slip away.

It's, we were mad at you all because you all didn't do what you should have done in 2006 and 2008, but this is worse than we ever thought we were getting into. This has gone in the totally wrong direction. So, Republicans, we're going to give you another chance, but you're going to have to earn our trust.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, do you agree with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who was quoted just a moment ago, who has said in the last few days that his top priority, the top priority for Republicans is to make sure Barack Obama is a one-term president?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: Well, if -- for myself, my top priority is that we hear the voters.

And when the voters tell us -- and they're going to tell us, in my opinion -- they want to reverse these policies, that we not only campaign on less spending, but we deliver less spending, that we don't raise taxes, because raising taxes at this stage in a recession -- and they can talk all they want to about a recovery. I can tell you, on Main Street, there's nothing that feels like a recovery.

So, tax increases now would be terrible for the economy. People want job creation. And they think what's being done doesn't create more jobs. And tax increases on top of it would be even worse.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But my question is, should that be the first priority? And I -- by the way, I just called Mitch McConnell majority leader. He's minority leader in the Senate.

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: Well, I was going to pass on that. I thought it was...


GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: I thought it was Freudian, that maybe you saw the future.

Judy, we need to govern or to have our role in government. And let's not kid ourselves. If we win the House, or even win the House and Senate, the president is going to still set the agenda. And I hope the president will hear what the people say, too, and he will say, OK, you all, I will work with you to cut spending. I will work with you and many, many Democrats who know we shouldn't raise taxes. We agree on a bunch of education issues, like pay-for-performance, merit pay, charter schools. I -- I will work with you on that.

Let's find some things we can work together on. But the Republicans shouldn't deviate on cutting spending, shouldn't deviate and raise taxes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there anything Republicans should compromise on to come up with a...

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: Well, as I said, if the president is willing to cut spending, we need to work with him on that and say, you know, just -- not just everything we want going to be cut.

But we cannot, cannot compromise on raising taxes, because you're hurting the economy. What we can't compromise on is increasing the number of jobs and having good policy. Education, as I say -- I mentioned three things there a second ago. Here are three things, if the president wants to work together on, I will guarantee you the Republicans will want to work with him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But it sounds like you're saying more the movement comes from the president than from Republicans.

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: Well, it should be responsive -- what -- whoever, it should be responsive to this vote.

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