By Liz Sidoti/The Associated Press
CHICAGO – Sounding every bit the presidential candidate, Gov. Haley Barbour used President Barack Obama’s hometown as a backdrop Monday to blame the Democrat for enacting policies that “created economic uncertainty or directly hurt the economy,” and argue that he could do better.
“The policies embraced by this White House show little understanding of how our economy actually works,” Barbour told the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce in a speech that previewed his likely campaign pitch.
Trying to draw a contrast, the two-term Republican governor of a state battered by Hurricane Katrina also boasted of his own record on economic growth and job creation in Mississippi, which has long been ranked at the bottom on personal income and education.
“We still have more to do in Mississippi. But we have made great progress and are laying a foundation for the future,” he said.
Barbour, who is expected to announce a candidacy for the GOP nomination this spring, delivered the speech in Chicago at the start of a week in which he’ll travel to the early caucus state of Iowa and the fundraising hot spot of California.
The swing coupled with the recent hiring of key aides signals the increasing likelihood that Barbour, a veteran GOP operative and longtime Washington lobbyist, will enter the presidential field. It’s all but certain to include former governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Jon Huntsman of Utah, as well as ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Barbour has spent months privately laying the groundwork for a campaign; Monday’s speech provided the first glimpse of how his candidacy would look and sound.
Barbour said: “What America needs today is a commitment to economic growth, not government growth: An absolute dedication to appropriately reforming entitlements coupled with an understanding that budget cuts must be matched by policies that promote growth and spread prosperity.”
Obama inherited a woeful economy from Republican President George W. Bush, with widespread job losses. The bailout of the financial sector and automakers is widely considered critical to putting the nation back on a path to recovery.
In a message not only to the country at large but also to Tea Party activists clamoring for deep budget cuts and Republican leaders in Washington carrying out their bidding, Barbour added: “Our focus on fiscal responsibility must go hand-in-hand with policies that drive economic growth and job creation.”