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Barbour's Drawl Gets New Hampshire Debut

Chris Fitzgerald/Newscom
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour tours Riley’s Gun Shop in Hooksett, N.H., this month.

He also drew heavy criticism for refusing to denounce a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, whom some wanted to honor with a state license. And he’s still asked about a recent Weekly Standard interview in which he offered a favorable remark about white supremacist groups known as Citizens Councils.

“You heard of the Citizens Councils?” he said in the interview. “Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders.”

Some believe such comments will overshadow superficial concerns about his drawl, and Democrats have promised if he is the Republican nominee to make them an issue.

“It’s not the fact that Barbour is from Mississippi or has an accent that makes him look like an idiot, it’s what he says with his accent,” Jennifer Jacob Brown, a columnist with the Meridian (Mississippi) Star, wrote last month. “When the primary campaign begins to really boil, it won’t be Barbour’s accent, weight, or Mississippi address that cost him the most — it will be his issues with race, his history as a Washington lobbyist, and his tendency to speak before he thinks that will give his competitors plenty of angles from which to attack.”

Indeed, back at the breakfast table, Barbour noted his lobbying experience while discussing health care costs with Bedford resident Ed Moquin.

“You used to lobby for all the drug companies?” Moquin said, cutting off Barbour in the middle of a sentence.

“Not all of them. Three of the biggest,” Barbour casually replied.

“Is that so?” quipped an obviously bothered Moquin, a registered Democrat who may participate in the 2012 GOP primary, which is open to unaffiliated voters.

Even if he doesn’t, Moquin is representative of a general election voter Barbour ultimately hopes to win over.

After the governor had moved to another breakfast table, Moquin suggested Barbour’s Southern roots wouldn’t be an issue.

“We’ve had Southern politicians here before. We’ve had Clinton, [former Vice President Al] Gore from Tennessee,” he said. “I think we’re all tolerant of accents. I mean, this is a French neighborhood and we got a lot of accents around here. That’s not the part that bothers me.”

So what bothers him? 

“Everything else,” Moquin said.

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