The Republican Presidential primary has begun. Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney are at the head of the pack. Republican Governors Mitch Daniels and Tim Pawlenty are also frequently mentioned.
And then there's Haley Barbour. In truth, Barbour's candidacy is at least one major factor influencing Chris Christie's decision not to run. As head of the Republican Governors Association, Haley Barbour funneled about $7 million into Christie's gubernatorial campaign. Since Christie has a policy of rewarding those who help him, he raised over $8 million for the RGA and will not run against Barbour.
As Republican governors, Haley and Christie have a lot in common. Both have been lobbyists and fundraisers. Under cover of the economic downturn both slashed state spending while remaining popular with voters. Both men criticize the Federal government's excessive spending while accepting Federal stimulus dollars.
And as candidates, both men promised not to raise taxes. Barbour, however, broke that pledge. He reinstated a hospital tax used to fund Medicaid and increased cigarette taxes.
So it would seem that the reception Barbour gets on the campaign trail will inform Chris Christie's decisions as governor. If Barbour is pilloried by conservatives in the primary race for raising taxes, then certainly Christie will stand firm on his pledge. But if Barbour gets a pass on his tax increases, it creates a window of opportunity here in New Jersey.
Let the games begin.