By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Credit Mississippi Governor and former Republican Party National Chairman Haley Barbour and the Republican Governors Association he runs for helping push Republicans into the victory column in the two gubernatorial races this year, say several GOP and conservative insiders. "This was a huge victory for Haley and just the start of what could be a very big year next year," said an ally and GOP lobbyist. The RGA was heavily involved in the races, especially in New Jersey, as it tested out an election plan that will go into full force next year when Democrats will be trying to hold on to 22 seats, compared with 16 for the Republicans. Another Republican Party official said that part of Barbour's success came from winning over so-called Reagan Democrats, the moderates who are concerned about the economy and jobs. "The New Jersey victory is attributable to two things: Haley Barbour and a re-emergence of Reagan Democrats who 'cannot take it any more' on taxes, affordability," added another Republican official.
It's unclear whether the successes will convince Barbour to run for president in 2012, but a lot of his fans in Washington hope he'll consider a bid.
And other GOPers told us not to leave out Ed Gillespie, the former national and Virginia GOP chairman who was a key adviser to Virginia Governor-elect Bob McDonnell.