According to the good folks at Inside Washington and Politico, Haley Barbour is the most powerful Republican in the country right now. That's because, as the head of the Republican Governors Association, Barbour has $40 million to spend on 2010 elections.
It's no secret that Michael Steele is having troubles at the Republican National Convention. Steele has recently taken remarkably progressive positions on gay marriage and abortion. Steele has also been charging speaking fees, which is highly unusual for someone his position; and he recently released a book without coordinating that release with Congressional Republicans. At least partially as a result, Steele and the RNC have been having trouble raising money.
Enter Haley Barbour, Mississippi Governor and former RNC Chairman. A Southern conservative and a friend of big oil, and an outspoken critic of Michael Steele, Barbour has been raising money hand over fist. And the message he's using to raise money? The Republican comeback started in Virginia and New Jersey.
In fact, just last week the RGA announced that it will be releasing a 20+ minute documentary about Chris Christie's successful gubernatorial campaign and his first 8 months in office.
So, in effect,we are seeing a schism in the Republican party at the national level. On the one hand, Michael Steele is trying to broaden the appeal of the party by moving away from the social conservative base and attracting independents and moderates. On the other hand, Haley Barbour is pulling the party's traditional, socially conservative Southern base around him.
And Barbour is using Chris Christie as bait.
Make no mistake -- to paraphrase the RGA, the battle starts here in New Jersey with Chris Christie.