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GREENVILLE, Miss. Politically interested folks in the Mississippi Delta spent the last few days of May wondering about whether Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln will survive todays Democratic runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and whether Democratic Rep. Travis Childers of Mississippis 1st district can win in a Republican wave in November.
With Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress, Lincoln and Childers are regarded by many in this region (even Republicans) as crucial advocates for Southern agriculture.
But more than anything else, political junkies throughout the Magnolia State seemed intrigued by the future of their own governor, Republican Haley Barbour.
Whats Haley going to do? they ask at the drop of a political hat, clearly ready to chip in with their own comments about the governors political future.
Barbour, first elected in 2003 and re-elected in 2007, is finishing his second term. Since he is precluded from running again, political junkies in the state have already started to handicap next years election to replace him.
Not that anyone thinks that the next occupant of the states top office can actually replace Barbour, who has a larger-than-life reputation in Mississippi and among some people in the nations capital.
At a time when many governors have seen their poll numbers and reputations tumble, the 62-year-old chief executive is still viewed by Mississippi political observers as hugely successful.
So it isnt surprising that movers and shakers in the Mississippi Delta, where politics has replaced cotton as king, are wondering what is in store for their governor when his term ends next year.
Barbour, who currently chairs the Republican Governors Association, chaired the Republican National Committee from 1993 to 1997, putting him at his partys helm during the 1994 midterm elections, when the GOP swept control of the House and Senate.
After the RNC, Barbour opened up an influential lobbying firm in the nations capital, and Barbour continues to have a legion of political allies in Washington, D.C., and nationally ready to do battle for him.
Barbour considered a presidential run in 2008 but wasnt all that serious about it. This time, insiders say, he is taking a long look at 2012. Admirers of the governor and there are many note that he has a long list of assets in a presidential race.
Barbour has been active in his party for so long that every Republican activist seems to know him and like him. He is well-liked by state and local GOP party leaders, and his popularity is unmatched, according to one veteran Republican insider, as a fundraiser, particularly among high-dollar GOP contributors. His current role at the RGA only increases his contacts.