For better or worse, his eight-year tenure will be viewed - is viewed - as a watershed period as far as redefining the role and powers of the governor. In truth, the governor of Mississippi has never been as weak as we media types and political pundits liked to claim it was.
Being able to appoint agency heads and key committee/board/agency members, such as to the College Board, is a tremendous power unto itself. And having the power of the bully pulpit should not be discounted.
Most governors have had some degree of success, thanks in large part to the bully pulpit. For instance, Democrat Ronnie Musgrove was able to use the bully pulpit to push through the Legislature the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state, and Republican Kirk Fordice before him used the bully pulpit to eliminate the so-called marriage penalty in state tax law.
No doubt, though, Barbour has been a particularly effective governor - in part because of his superior political skills and in part because of being the governor when partisan politics became more important in Mississippi.
Barbour's sway over Republican members of the Legislature has been breathtaking at times - giving him more power and influence than past governors possessed. Republican legislators have told me before they would never vote to override a Barbour veto regardless of the issue. Barbour has used those superior political skills to accelerate and to take advantage of the growing partisan nature of the state. But some of those partisan dynamics, which have resulted in more power for the governor, would have occurred with or without Barbour.
They were occurring to a large extent during Musgrove's last year in office.
But the fact remains that Barbour will go down as a defining and most significant figure in Mississippi politics.
The question is, will he build on that legacy when he leaves office in roughly six months?
Before Barbour ran for governor and won the office in 2003, he was a significant political figure in Mississippi. But as a former political director in the Reagan White House, as former chair of the Republican National Committee and as former mega-D.C. lobbyist, he was more of a significant national political figure who happened to be from Mississippi.
Barbour had an influence in state elections, but not nearly to the level he has had as governor. In 1999, Barbour endorsed his good friend - Charlie Williams - in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
Williams finished third in a six-candidate field. But two of the three who finished behind Williams did little more than put their names on the ballot.
In six months will Barbour return to being a national figure who happens to be from Mississippi or will he still be as intensely involved in state races as he has been as governor?
What Barbour can do - if he chooses - is raise a lot of money for Mississippi Republican candidates. Will he be doing that when he no longer resides in the Governor's Mansion?
Or will he again jump back on to the national political field - a field he has been playing on since at least the early 1980s - and be a national figure who happens to be from Mississippi?
And another related question is will Barbour ever run for office again? He rejected a run for president. Would he be on a ticket as the vice presidential candidate?
He often has said it would not make sense for his party's vice presidential nominee to come from a solidly Republican state like Mississippi. He said it would not add anything to the ticket from an electoral standpoint.
Another option might be eventually replacing Thad Cochran in the U.S. Senate. He also has said in the past that he would much rather be a chief executive - governor or president - than to be a member of a legislative body.
But being one of 100 in the exclusive club known as the U.S. Senate would not be a bad thing for someone who wanted to yield influence on both the state and national levels like former Democratic Mississippi Sens. John Stennis and James Eastland used to do in a bygone era.
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal's Capitol Bureau Chief. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (601) 353-3119.