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MR. COOK: Okay, everybody. Thanks for coming. I'm Dave Cook from the Monitor. Our guest this morning is Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Last month POLITICO described him as the most powerful republican in American politics at least for the next three months. His first session with our group was back in 1993 when he was beginning his term as chairman of the Republican National Committee. This is his 22nd visit. He was born in Yasou City in the Mississippi Delta; went to Old Miss on a scholarship; left before graduation to work on Nixon's 1968 campaign, beginning a life long involvement in politics. After graduating from law school Mr. Barbour ran Joel Port's campaign in the southeast, ran for the Senate himself against John Stennis, and in 1985 became Ronald Reagan's White House political director. In '91 he founded a power house lobbying firm and then served as chair of the RNC from '93 to '97. In 2003 he was elected governor of Mississippi, only the second republican to win that office since Reconstruction. He was re-elected in 2007. So much for biography. Now on to mundane matters of process. As always, we're on the record. There's no live blogging or twittering, but after the session is over, feel free to blog and tweet with abandon. We have a big group this morning and to help maintain our hard won reputation for being a civilized forum, if you would like to ask a question, please send me a suttle non-threatening signal and I'll do my best to call on one and all in the time we have. If you can resist the urge for multi-part questioning, more of our colleagues will be able to get in a question. With that we'll start off by offering our guest the opportunity to make some opening comments and then we'll move to questions from around the table. With that, sir, thanks for coming and the floor is yours. MR. BARBOUR: Thank you to everybody. It's nice to see alot of you that I haven't seen in a long time. And alot of you, hopefully, I'll get to see more often. I'm not going to make a lot of remarks. I would simply say to those of you who have been around as long as I have, and unfortunately, there's several of you, that back when I started doing this, this is where the campaign began -- you know, Labor Day. Of course, there's been so much written about the 2010 campaign and so much prognostication about the 2010 campaign that my message for you and you readers/viewers -- whatever you got -- I guess still mostly readers here, this campaign just started. There's -- the wind has certainly been at the Republican's back for more than a year and the intensity of the political environment since last summer, the summer of 2009, has been greater than it was in 1993, '94, but it's still -- you know, we're still two months away from the election, eight weeks away from the election yesterday. Nothing is foreordained, and for Republicans, they need to understand we have to keep our foot on the accelerator and run smart, good campaigns. Clearly, the labor unions and the Democrats are going to spend an enormous amount of money in the last month particularly, but starting now. We will be out spending most states, so we need to understand, stay focussed and stay on the issues that are on people's minds. The issues that are on people's minds are the economy, jobs, the failure of the stimulus packages, concern about all this spending, deficits, debt and where that's going to lead and that's what people talk about at the dining room table or the kitchen table and that's what they're going to be talking about in terms of the campaign. I do think that's the one thing I want to come away from here with Republicans understanding is that we have a long way to go. We got a whole campaign still in front of us and the environment is as good as it's ever been in my career. As you noted, my career has been pretty long -- 1968. Still nothing is done until it's done, and we've got to run hard through the finish line if we're going to have good results. MR. COOK: Let me ask you two quick ones then I'll pass to my colleagues starting with Jennifer Dudley, Walter Shapiro, Miles Spence and Chuck Ross. As you know, the president is giving a speech later today in Cleveland proposing a number of tax plans that would appear to appeal to the business community including expanding -- making permanent tax credit for business R&D, allowing businesses to write off the full value of purchases through 2011, and of $50 billion dollar transportation infrastructure bank. So for purposes of argument, what reason is there other than narrow partisanship for Republicans to oppose that? MR. BARBOUR: First of all, I'm glad to see that President Obama is finally starting to adopt some of Senator McCain's campaign plan. The write off of business expenses McCain proposed -- permanent R&D tax credit McCain proposed -- the issue is what is it going to be tagged to. Is it going to be, here's $200 billion dollars of tax breaks to help the economy, however we're going to offset it? The Democrats will say -- let me clarify that. The Democrats may say we're going to offset $200 billion dollars of tax increases that will hurt the economy, so that's -- I think that would be the issue. If you simply put out there, let's have one hundred percent expensing of capital and equipment cost, I think every Republican would vote for it. If you put it out there in tax increases that will offset the good that's a different story. MR. COOK: One last one -- MR. BARBOUR: And I should add that I can't speak for any Republican in Congress being a governor. MR. COOK: Let me ask you one last one. Obviously the room is full today because you may be a presidential candidate in 2012. There was, I think, what some people might consider a frontal assault on your potential candidacy in Tuesday's Post where Eugene Robinson said that in an interview that you gave -- it appeared in Human events was, "...trying to sell the biggest load of revisionist nonsense about race, politics and the south that I've heard ever." I want to give you a chance to respond to that comment if you choose. MR. BARBOUR: I'd admit Eugene Robinson -- I mean he's got his opinion. He was critical of -- I said two things primarily. One, is that I went to an integrated college, which in the interview I set out. I went to integrated schools. I went to a college that was integrated, not to undergrad school to -- I mean, not to K-12 which I have said in other interviews when asked what I thought was made very plain in that interview that I was referring to going to college, and it was a very pleasant experience for me. Now, Eugene Robinson got a different view of what -- how happy or unhappy I was when I was nineteen. The fact of the matter is he doesn't know one bit about what he's talking about. REPORTER: But he said it was total integration. MR. BARBOUR: Well, whether it was or wasn't, you know, I went to -- when I went to Old Miss it was integrated. My first -- the way this all came out, my first class was Sophomore Lit and I sat by -- because they seated us alphabetically -- I sat by a very nice girl named Verna Lee Bailey, which happened to be an African-American. God bless her, she let me copy her notes the whole time. MR. COOK: He said that you had -- MR. BARBOUR: Since I was not prone to go to class everyday, I considered it a great thing, and there was nothing to it. If she remembers it, I would be surprised. She was just another student. I was the student next to her. She took good notes and she let me take them over the grill. We didn't have copy machines back in those days in 1965. She would let me take her notes over the grill and copy them. I still love her. MR. COOK: After this I'll move to Jennifer. He said that you were trying to portray -- quote, trying to portray southern Republicans as having been enlightened supporters of the Civil Rights Movement all along. MR. BARBOUR: If I could say, I don't know Eugene Robinson. When I became a Republican in the late 60s in my state and probably some other southern states, the hard rights were all democrats. They didn't want to have Republicans because, in their words, "it split the white vote", and young people were more likely to be Republicans than our parents or our grandparents. I don't remember exactly what he said in the article, but he referred to that. But that is the fact that Clark Reed, who many of you know, became chairman of the Republican National -- State Republican Party when he was in his early 30s. Young people were much more likely to be Republicans, and our parents became republicans after we did -- ten, twenty years in some cases after we did. That's just a historical fact. I don't think it's any -- for myself, it doesn't require a response. If somebody wrote something about me that knew something about me then I would feel more compelled to -- MR. COOK: Jennifer. REPORTER: (Jennifer Dudley) Eight weeks ago how many seats did you think you were going to pick up, and among you're own seats in the Republican seats, which will you struggle to hold. MR. BARBOUR: Of course with five states that would normally be viewed as pretty dominantly democratic that have Republican governors this year who are not running for re-election; Hawaii, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. I will say that we're going to win some of those. Even though they're hard states with Republicans, in each one we have to defend it without the incumbent. You know, California is a very competitive race; Florida is a very competitive race. And, Jennifer, I don't take anything for granted. But we have a number of states where there are Republican governors that are not viewed as red states -- that don't match my lapel pin here. We've had a Republican governor of Rhode Island for sixteen consecutive years. That ain't natural. MR. COOK: Walter. REPORTER: (Walter) Governor, Chris Buckley wrote a wonderful novel about Washington, Thank You for Smoking, which I'm sure that you've read. He writes about the great pariah lobbying industries; alcohol, firearms and tobacco. About the same time that he was writing that novel your firm was collecting over $2 million dollar in lobbying fees from the tobacco industry. You've said that it would help to have a president who's a lobbyist. Would it help to have a president who's a tobacco lobbyist? MR. BARBOUR: You know, Walter, I'm a lawyer, a lobbyist and a politician. That's a trifecta. What Americans think about public life, you should know I used to be on the board of directors of a company which owns federal cartridge, so I didn't get to lobby for the gun industry, but I was on the board of directors for the holding company for one of them. Advocacy, whether it's in a courtroom like I did when I was a young lawyer or lobbying, it is something that presidents have to be very good at. When I got elected governor of Mississippi my opponent ran several million dollars of television advertisements attacking me for having been a lobbyist or being a lobbyist, including like those that you talk about. When Katrina came, the people of Mississippi decided that they had made the right decision when a big part of my job was coming to Washington to advocate support for Mississippi and the other states that was literally unprecedented in disaster response in the United States. Mississippi, Louisiana and our sister states were given tremendously generous support from the federal government and given more latitude in how to use that for Mississippi's priorities as opposed to Washington's priorities. The same way presidents have to advocate the right policies for economic growth, the right policies for national security and for homeland security, so you know, I don't shy away from my career as a lobbyist. I was a pretty good one. REPORTER: (Walter) Have you read the Chris Butley book? MR. BARBOUR: I haven't. MR. COOK: Just before we move on, Miles, I want to make sure in the back -- John Dickerson are you hearing me in the back? Is the volume up back there? REPORTER: Loud and clear. MR. BARBOUR: I have to holler, I know at your age. REPORTER: Governor, as you said, advocacy is something that president's have to be good at. The campaign is not well underway and this president is doing alot of advocacy. Im wondering -- obviously, it's up to all Republicans to speak about the response, but if you could designate maybe the top two or three Republicans you would choose to debate the president at this stage of the game. MR. BARBOUR: Miles, being very focused on ten -- the election of 2010 -- I haven't given something like that alot of thought because that's jut not something that happens in the campaign of 2010. REPORTER: But the President is out there right now -- MR. BARBOUR: He is, and Democrats are running from him like scalded dogs. If you look at when he goes somewhere the real question is, is the Democratic candidate for governor going to show up, or is he going to have a root canal that day so he can get out of going, or she can get out of going in some cases. That's the -- to me that's the real question is, as the President goes to all these places that the Democrats are shying away from him, but yet, they still keep sending him. REPORTER: Yes, sir. But my question is, who would you think would be the best Republican to debate the president while he goes around? MR. BARBOUR: Well, you don't have that in the 2010 election so I haven't given it any thought, but we hope he'll continue going around. You might let him have a microphone by himself. MR. COOK: We'll go next to Chuck Rosch, Jeff Zalamie, Rick Davis, Tom Hamburger, Christine Bellatoni, and George Condin. Chuck. REPORTER: Governor, what have the Republicans done the last few years to deserve the majority vote? MR. BARBOUR: Well, they've, in a very unified fashion posed bad policy. We were talking earlier -- or I was -- about the intensity of the public over the last year, over political environment and it has been driven by bad policy. The public appreciates it when a party fights against what the public knows is bad policy. Even if the left succeeds in cramming the bad policy down the country's throat, such as the Health Care Reform Bill, the public appreciates the effort to try to stop it and they understand my effort. They understand that we don't have the votes, but Republicans have fought very hard against all this spending and the public notion -- just like your family can't spend itself rich the country can't spend itself rich. They're very concerned about the spending and they can look back over and over at the opposition of that and the press doesn't cover that much and I don't mean that pejoratively. The republicans have offered a lot of alternatives, however, everybody sitting at the table knows when you have a 170 something in the House and 40 in the Senate, that your alternatives are not going anywhere and they're not going to get a vote, but even some people who are really interested in politics recognize that the Republicans have offered alot of alternatives to this that the public think -- people who pay attention enough to have seen that see would be better alternatives. Something -- it would be better off. In Missouri the vote is 71 percent against the Health Care Plan that Congress adopted. You know, it speaks volumes about the country's -- this bill went state. That speaks volumes about the country's opposition to these policies, and the country recognizes the Republicans have fought against the policies. MR. COOK: Every breakfast I try to mangle at least one name, and so I apologize for mangling Rick Klein's. We'll get there in a moment, but I wanted to note that I had mangled the name. Moving on to Margaret. REPORTER: Governor, let's return to the subject of race because you probably haven't decided whether you're going to run and it's become an issue. During President Obama's candidacy he felt the need to give a speech about race and I'm wondering whether -- if you decided to run -- it's something that you envision that you would consider, and I'm also wondering whether you think it is a key consideration in terms of how people perceive Mississippi or you. Also, would you talk a little about Michelle Obama and the friendship that you developed with her. MR. BARBOUR: Well, let me say first of all, I'm not giving serious thought of running for president until after the November election. As chairman of the Republican Governor Association I'm giving all my energy and political mind share to electing Republican governors then I do have the full-time job being governor of Mississippi, so I haven't given that the least bit of thought. When Mrs. Obama came to Mississippi not only was she charming, it was a very useful thing. My wife had become, previously, the head of a program we call Let's Go Walk In Mississippi, which is funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield foundation, but it was based on the fact that we have the highest rate of obesity, the highest diabetes and alot of other bad medical situations in our state. Exercise was something that we, as a state, started trying to promote in schools, in businesses, in state government with state employees and so it was a great fit. Marcia had done this and then Mrs. Obama, after she became first lady, adopted something similar. She came down to Mississippi and spent a good deal of the day and it was a great event. She was enormously well received and it was useful. MR. COOK: Jeff. REPORTER: Governor, at the speech you gave at the Southern Republicans Judicial Conference in New Orleans, you said that President Obama is down on his knees praying that the conservatives split their vote. A few months have passed and some bitter primaries have passed since then. In Florida specifically, what is your worry about the split Republican or conservative vote? MR. BARBOUR: Well, I'm going to take those as two very separate questions because they're two very separate phenomenon. I mean, what happened in Florida I see is very -- Rick Scott is not a tea party type candidate. He's going to be a very strong candidate but, you know, he didn't come out of the tea party movement like Mr. Paul or somebody like that. The worst thing for Republicans would have been for tea party activists to -- for lack of a better definition or description -- to run as independents and split the conservative vote. That would have been far, far worse for us. Instead they chose to run in our primaries and we welcomed them in our primaries and the intra party competition is healthy. Sometimes you can get a primary that gets out of hand and they beat each other up so bad, but generally, it's healthy. I'm glad that the tea party movement recognized that the Republican party is where they ought to be and they participate in our party and that they had candidates that won our primaries. At the RGA our policy, just as it was when I was at the RNC, we don't take sides at primaries. The individual governors can be for whom ever they want to. The RGA doesn't take sides and we don't give money in primaries, so I still think it would have been far, far, far worse if tea party candidates had decided to 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. They were welcomed and they participated, and in some places, won primaries. But that's really not what happened in Florida. Florida was a little bit different -- well, not a little bit. It was a different phenomenon. Rick Scott wasn't projected up by the Tea Party Movement. He decided he wanted to run; he got in and ran a very effective campaign. I think it will be a very united Republican party in November. MR. COOK: Rick Klein of ABC. MR. BARBOUR: In both races, Senate and governor. REPORTER: Governor, clearly governor races are run on lots of issues. I'm curious from your take what it would mean to have a strong majority of Republicans governors for the final two years of the president's first term. What does it mean for the Washington agenda, the policy agenda? What do you expect to see Republican governors enact worldwide MR. BARBOUR: Just to set the record straight on my own views, I think the national issues this year coincide almost totally with state issues; economic growth, jobs, job creation, spending, deficits, debt, taxes. There's a huge coincidence among those issues at the federal and state level, so I think the campaigns will be about generally the same subject matter. Now, what difference does it make if you elect Republicans? First of all, the governors elected this year will preside over re-districting. If I remember right, 39 governors have some role in re-districting, many of which have a veto, and that's re-districting of both houses, the state legislature and of the Congress -- U.S. House. By the way, I think that one of the stories that should be covered at the end of the day is the changes that I think will occur in state legislature. There's going to be alot of changes, not just -- this isn't just about Congressional. Of course, the second thing is there is a correlation between elected senators and elected governors. There's a very high likelihood that if we don't elect a Republican governor in a state that we will not pick up the Senate seat. That rarely happens -- or in the last twenty years it's rarely happened. By the way, I think there's 27 or 28 states that have a senate race and a governor race this year. Finally, in 2012, a popular, active Republican governor is a big asset to a presidential campaign. Whether it's worth a point, or two points, or three points -- I'm not that smart, but its worth some points. REPORTER: We're about half way there. Let me give you a list of who's coming next. Tom Hamburger, Christina Bellantoni, George Condin, Reed Wilson, Paul Olind, Linda Feldman, Charles Stallburg, and ending with Cynthia Tucker. MR. BARBOUR: Does that mean I need to be briefer? MR. COOK: You're fine. Just to let them know where we're going. REPORTER: I'd like to ask you a little bit about the RGA and the primaries this year. You mentioned priorities this year like the governor's. Are you taking over some of the functions that the RNC usually provide there and are you also concerned about the Republican parties ground game generally? MR. BARBOUR: Our targeting is predicated on electing governors. That's our first goal. In Wyoming where we don't take anything for granted, we would -- if it took we would be putting money into Wyoming to win Wyoming even though they don't have but one congressman, but you should know that first of all our focus is on elected governors, okay. Secondarily, we do know that normally in a political sphere governors' races drive turnout. Usually, governors, races, Tom, are better funded and they take a lot of the responsibility in the ground game, if you will. It's clear that the RNC -- "it's clear" may be unfair -- it appears that the RNC won't be able to put as much money into state party vote operations as they have sometimes in the past, and yes, we have taken that into consideration to try to be sure that we have a good ground game in the states where we think it matters, which is everywhere. MR. COOK: Christina. REPORTER: Right now in Colorado the last election was reflected on negatively. Will the RGA stand by that candidate? MR. BARBOUR: We are for whom ever the Republicans of a state nominate. They don't have to dominate -- the RGA doesn't take sides as I said earlier. At the same time we practice what I call "ruthless targeting". When we raise money from people in good faith, our good faith pledge to them is we're going to use it where it puts a lid on the target. We don't pay for sure winners. We don't give to sure losers. We try to put our money where we think it can make a difference in a way that does make a difference. So in Colorado we have to look at how does it develop, but you know, you can read a poll maybe better than I can. REPORTER: So you haven't put any money on Colorado? MR. BARBOUR: We have put some money in Colorado, past tense. MR. COOK: George. REPORTER: Governor, two questions. One, earlier this year you said a better tip off to what the presidential plans are than what you say is whether you go on a diet. I'm just wondering how the diet is coming along. MR. BARBOUR: I went to Gordon's last night. A great diet kitchen. REPORTER: If you did run, the southern base is very important. How do you see Mike Klousy (ph) -- how do you see him helping candidates in the mid term? Do you see him doing anything that would make him a serious candidate in the next election? MR. BARBOUR: Well, he's the ten year governor of Arkansas. He was very much in the middle of things in 2008. He's got a popular T.V. show. So I mean if he chose to run again I think he's got a starting place. I think that's all anybody has got is a starting place. I expect this to be a very, very wide open nomination contest but if Mike ran I think he would be a formidable candidate. I have no idea what his intentions are. REPORTER: Is he doing what he can do to help other Republican candidates? MR. BARBOUR: He's been involved in some races and has been out-spoken for some people, and I think he also is doing what I consider the most important thing, is he's focused on 2010. That's what every Republican needs to be focused on is 2010. We can't wait until 2012 to start taking our country back. This election is the election that matters, and then we can worry about 2012 after that. MR. COOK: Reed. REPORTER: Governor, how are fundraising efforts going? MR. BARBOUR: Actually, that's in the next week or two. It hasn't happened yet but he called me on the phone and asked me if I would do a fund raiser for him and I told him I would if I was going to be in the area. You know, Kentucky doesn't have a governor's race this year. It's like in Mississippi we have a governor's race -- our governor's race is next year; this is there's. It turned out that it's going to be in Cincinnati. We got back to him and it worked out to do this. He asked me and I obviously want to help him. We want him to win. REPORTER: What have you done personally to reach out? MR. BARBOUR: In my state we have tried very hard to get them involved organizationally; for instance, we had an initiative effort which requires about 100,000 to 90,000 signatures and we really pushed hard on our local Republican leadership to find the Tea Party activist and get them involved, and they were very involved. My experience in organizational politics is if you give people a chance to help and they think it's meaningful, people will knock your door down and that was the case here. We have urged our candidates going back to our -- we had a candidate school last summer where we had about thirty of the candidates for this year and we urged them to find the Tea Party people, to reach out to them, to engage them, to involve them. I think that that has been very -- that that's been done and I think it's been very useful. MR. COOK: Ralph. REPORTER: You recommended that someone other than the southerners be the national party chairman. What is the slack that the Republican National Committee has allowed to do in conjunction with the state parties that other legal communities are not entitled to and what difference will it make? MR. BARBOUR: Ralph, in 2008 I said all things being equal I though it would be better if chairman won to the south for the reason that we need to not appear to be a reasonable party because we're not a reasonable party. This election we're in competitive races in Hawaii and Maine and everywhere in between. So, you know, not against having a chairman for the south just all things being equal -- REPORTER: Or a presidential candidate. MR. BARBOUR: You, Ralph, can take it to that point. I probably wouldn't. If we're quantifying -- I can't quantify in the whole house, senate, governors everything since what the RNC would normally do. We think the impact on the governors associations and governor's races is probably about ten million-dollars; that we have to come up with about 10 million-dollars that normally would have been pushed into the governors' races in various directions, largely through state matters not directly to governor's campaign. REPORTER: But the last 72 hours of the campaign is where ground game takes place. You won't be able to do that right for anybody? MR. BARBOUR: We won't be able to do it? Sure we can do it. We do it for governors. MR. COOK: Carl. REPORTER: What's your view, Governor, as of this minister in Georgia who's planing to celebrate 911 by burning Korans -- REPORTER: Florida -- REPORTER: -- Florida. And more significantly, the fact that some prominent Republicans including Newt Gingrich and some of the people in New York seem to be using -- trying to rip up anti-Muslim feeling as a political tactic. MR. BARBOUR: I do not think well of the idea of burning anybody's Koran, Bible or Book of Mormon or anything else. I don't think there's any excuse for it, so where ever he's from I still don't think it's a good idea. REPORTER: What do you think of Republicans who are basically trying to rip up anti-Muslim feeling as a political tactic? MR. BARBOUR: I don't see it, but I will tell you this, any issue that takes peoples' eyes off of unemployment, job creation, economic growth, taxes, spending, deficits and debt is taking your eye off the ball. That's what the American people are concerned about; that's what the American people don't like about the democrats. When Americans are worried about job creation and unemployment -- for a year the Democrats talked about nothing but health care the public didn't like it then and then when they found out about what the result was, a health care plan that's going to make your health care costs go up, the American people liked it even less so anything that distracts from that is, in my opinion, taking your eye off the ball. MR. COOK: Linda. REPORTER: Governor, do you have you have candidates in your party with no governmental experience. Are they qualified? MR. BARBOUR: Very often it can. I think when you see somebody like Mick Whitman, in an enormous state, that her success I think in business is very applicable to California because California has got some problems that are driven by the county issues she's had to deal with; for instance, their spending is just out of control. So yes, I think it very often can. I've never held elective office except for governor, and I think I turned out all right. I'm not going to argue against me, I can tell you that much. I think very often business experience can be a very appropriate training ground, and candidly, sometimes it's better than having grown up as part of the system that needs to be changed. For some people that grew up as part of the system, it's harder for them to change. MR. COOK: Cheryl. REPORTER: Governor, we've seen some intriguing polls this year on the president's religion. Eighteen percent of Americans think that he is a Muslim. There's coordination of this information campaign and others so I'm wondering first do you think there's such a campaign by his critics and if not, why do Americans think that about him -- think erroneously of his religion -- and also, why do so many people think that he was born outside of the United States. And separately on Michelle Obama, she's on the campaign for Democrats. Can she do them any good? MR. BARBOUR: Let me start with the second one. I think she would be very well received. She's a gracious, attractive, very bright lady. I don't think it would change any votes but she would be very well received. Everywhere in the country. She certainly was in my state and if she came back there on a political trip she would be very well received again. But like I said, I don't think it would have any effect on the outcome of any election. I don't know why people think what they think. We do -- this is a president that we know less about than any other president in history but I have no idea why. I accept just totally at face value that he's a Christian throughout the time he's been in public life and that's good enough for me. Do I think there's a vast right wing conspiracy? No, ma'am MR. COOK: Cynthia. REPORTER: Governor, I'd like to ask you about race. It has contained some elements that Republicans traditionally favor accountability going against some of the wishes of the teachers union yet it also contains elements that suggest more federal control push for national standards. How do you personally feel about the race to the top and what do most -- do you think most republican governors are supportive of it? MR. BARBOUR: Well, first of all, like Bob McDonald when he was asked when he was running for governor of Virginia what -- did he agree with President Obama. He said, race to the stop. My state, unfortunately, has the worse charter school law in the United States. Otherwise, we would have been right in the thick of competition for race to the top. We have a forum of pay for performance for teachers. I think that is very important. We also have a very low percentage of our teachers are in unions and so we would not have had that sort of opposition, but we were almost disqualified because we have one charter school in the whole state. But I like it. I think it's a very positive thing and in my state -- let me just say, we have tried to move our state testing toward the national standards because our kids, when they finish school, they're not going to be competing against kids from Canton, Mississippi. They're going to be competing against kids from China. I could tell you as the chief economic development officer of the state, the industries that are thinking about coming to my state, they don't look at the state scores; they look at National, because they're comparing us against Alabama or Utah or where ever. So that's just reality that our kids have to compete. We've been very successful in recent years in job creation in the state and replacing low skilled, low paying jobs with high skilled, high paying jobs. One of the reasons is we've improved education there and apart of that and an indication of that is comparing our kids to kids in those states. MR. COOK: We're going to go next to John and then Sam Stein, Johnathan Wiseman, Al Isley, Debra Berry and Jim Barnes. REPORTER: Governor, is there alot of religion pulling the GOP and the conservative movement? MR. BARBOUR: First of all, they're not running for anything. My focus is on people who are candidates for governor, the campaigns that they run for governor. They and their campaigns need to be focussed on the issues that voters care about. It's not like this is new, news. Campaigns are supposed ot be about the issues that are on the voters' minds. We try to keep our candidates very focussed on, here are the things that matter. The public wants to know what are you going to do about it. And that's the way to run a successful campaign. Now people who are not running for something -- or not currently running for something -- are not involved in the campaign, I think that is less of an issue, but if you are running in a campaign and you're trying to get elected in November you need to be talking about the issues that are on people's minds. REPORTER: Can you answer the question? MR. BARBOUR: I mean, I don't know what all they talked about. They draw huge crowds and enthusiastic crowds but you know what somebody is talking about that is not directly related to campaigns then I'm sorry, but I'm not paying alot of attention. If somebody goes to campaign for governor candidate "X", I would hope that somebody would satay focused on the issues that matter to the campaign; jobs, economy, taxes, spending, debt, deficits. MR. COOK: Sam. REPORTER: Can you respond to a specific matter. Ken Nolan recently came out of the closet from the RNC and said that he was gay and he's fund raising for same sex marriage. How do you see the Republican party embracing the issue of same sex marriage and/or gay rights? MR. BARBOUR: I think what Mitch said is very similar to what I responded two or three questions here today. The voters have on their minds the economy, jobs, spending, deficit, debt, taxes. Good campaigns are about the issues that are on people's minds. I'll but my bona fides up against anybody as a social conservative. My first year as the governor of America's United for Life gave me their man of the year award and said that Mississippi was the safest state. That ain't going to change anybody's vote this year because people are concerned about jobs, the economy and growth, spending and taxes. Y'all kind of get where I'm going. That's what's on people's minds and any -- you're using up valuable time and resources that could be used to talk to people about what they care about. Do I think there's any kind of truth or social agreement, I don't know. It seems to me like a whole lot more was made out of that than it deserved. I thought there was less there than meets the eye. REPORTER: What about, Mr. Nolan? Is the Republican party becoming a more open place for gay rights? MR. BARBOUR: You know when I -- in my career I've had extremely capable, valued employees and colleagues who were homosexuals. No big deal to me. My state voted 81 percent, which means the majority that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, and those two things are compatible with each other. MR. COOK: Johnathan. REPORTER: You talked about Obama's failing at policies. How much money has Mississippi gotten from the HazMat from stimulus? Are you see those sign crowding your highway, and I'd also like to ask you what you think -- how you think President Obama did on the BP oil spill for the State of Mississippi. MR. BARBOUR: Well, it's clear to me that the stimulus package could have spent about half as much money and created twice as many jobs. REPORTER: Why is that? MR. BARBOUR: Because so much of it went into social programs. There was a huge amount of social policy that was jammed into that -- in that bill. My department of transportation -- I have the only independently elected transportation commissioners in the United States. They don't work for me. They announced that the stimulus package created a certain number of jobs at the cost of $700,000 of jobs. Not a very good use of tax payers' money. We mostly did a whole bunch of resurfacing. Very little infrastructure improvement beyond resurfacing. In my Democratic legislature -- both houses of the Mississippi have democratic majorities. My legislature leadership from the House sent me two Democrats, fifty Republicans. They met with me two days ago to ask for an agreement that we not spend any of the extra money. We're going to carry it all over to next year. REPORTER: Would that be helpful? MR. BARBOUR: Well, when the cliff comes -- you know, one of the problems with the federal money is you get "X" hundred millions of dollars one year and the next year you get nothing and there's this enormous cliff and we're trying to deal with it by being conservative and controlling spending. My budget is this year is 13 percent less than it was two years ago. Okay. We haven't had one nursing home close, we haven't had one person not be able to get in a hospital or get dialysis or anything else. We're able to not use $130 million dollars that they're pushing to us. We're able to push it off until next year which is going to be a much harder budget year. My revenue looks like it's flattened out but I'm gone have a $600 million dollar loss of funding because all of this federal money goes to waste. It's a very serious problem. I asked the president when he was -- the December before he was inaugurated, give us the money and let us stretch it out so we don't have a cliff at the end, but that's not the way it turned out. It is a real problem to get $290 million dollars for education one day and then nothing. MR. COOK: We have about two and a half minutes. Al Isley. REPORTER: Governor, is there any doubt in your mind that Sarah Palin if she should run for president that she would make a good republican presidential nominee? MR. BARBOUR: I have no idea. REPORTER: You can do better than that. MR. BARBOUR: I thought I'd tell you the truth, Al. Usually it's the right answer. MR. COOK: Debra. REPORTER: Black farmers from Mississippi have been pressed to set aside 1.2 billion dollars for claim payments. What's your position on that and have you also been pressing the case and can you talk about oil spill recovery and where we are on that. MR. BARBOUR: I don't know anything about the black farmers case other than when what I've read in the newspaper. I'm going to leave it at that, not normally making my opinions based on what I read in the newspaper. MR. COOK: No offense, right. MR. BARBOUR: As far as the oil spill is concerned we were hurt financially badly because of the negative impact on our tourist season. Physically we never had any amount of oil -- depleted oil come ashore that wasn't manageable. We have about 80 miles of coastline. We had three miles of beach closed for 48 hours. That's the only time in the whole deal that we closed any beach. We would clean up what we got that day and to do it pretty easily. We're pretty far from the well site. It's about 110 miles and so what we got was very depleted and beat up. We didn't get the brown wet oil that they got in Louisiana that you saw on T.V. every hour on six different channels but everybody thought we did. You know, everybody thought Mississippi and Alabama and Florida's gulf coast was ankle deep in oil. We just wasn't. What came to us looked more like asphalt and what we call tar balls -- for those of you that grew up on the gulf -- we have them all the time we just had a few more of them but it didn't matter because our tourist season got crushed because there was no differentiation in the news coverage. People in Chicago and Charlotte thought the whole gulf was caked in brown oil and it's just -- that's just the way it is. MR. COOK: We're at the one hour mark. We look forward to your 23rd visit. Thank you very much.