By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
For a second week, a GOP sex scandal has helped an aspiring 2012 presidential candidate. This time, it's Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who takes over the Republican Governors Association from South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who admitted, in detail, his affair with a woman in Argentina.
Barbour is somebody to watch, say his Republican allies. He served as head of the Republican National Committee under Ronald Reagan, was a successful lobbyist, and then won praise for his Hurricane Katrina cleanup despite the Bush administration's bumbling efforts there. He's dismissing the talk, for now, as he focuses on helping Republicans win election to the House and Senate in 2010.
But that hasn't stopped the buzz in Washington, where we're already hearing of a 2012 ticket teaming Barbour with another two-term governor, Indiana's Mitch Daniels. He was a White House political director under Reagan and served as George W. Bush's first budget chief. Like Barbour, he's popular in his state, though quick to reject talk of his political future while still in office.
Recall that last week's sex scandal—Nevada Sen. John Ensign's admitted affair with an aide—pushed Ensign from the 2012 presidential stage but opened the door to his replacement in Senate GOP leadership ranks by South Dakota's John Thune.
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