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GOP's Barbour gauges support

By Staff
VIABLE CANDIDATE John Watts, left, a retired engineer with the Mississippi Air National Guard, and his wife, Ann Watts, a Lauderdale County elections commissioner, greet Haley Barbour in Meridian on Monday. Photo by Steve Gillespie / The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
April 23, 2002
Longtime Republican leader Haley Barbour was encouraged by the reaction from GOP supporters who stopped by a reception Monday night at Cafe Latt in downtown Meridian.
And many in the crowd of about 200 were just as excited that the former chairman of the Republican National Committee was considering a run for governor in the 2003 state elections.
The early-evening event was billed as a rally to energize Republicans heading into this year's congressional elections and next year's statewide races.
It also was the latest stop in a statewide tour Barbour is making as he tries to gauge support for a possible gubernatorial race. If he decides to run, it would be Barbour's first statewide race since challenging Sen. John Stennis in 1982.
Barbour already has visited most of South Mississippi; he plans future trips to Starkville, Columbus, West Point and Southaven. By June, he said he will have visited most counties in the state.
Republican chances
Jim Herring, state chairman of the Republican Party, was pleased with Barbour's reception in Meridian. When Republicans are excited and energized, he said, the GOP can win state elections.
John Watts of Meridian believes Barbour is the party's most viable candidate. Watts is an engineer with the Mississippi Air National Guard and husband of Ann Watts, a Lauderdale County election commissioner.
Gauging support
Barbour said he is trying to talk with Republican and community leaders he has known through the years before deciding whether to run for governor.
If he does run and win the GOP nomination, he would face the Democratic Party nominee in the November 2003 general election.
Incumbent Democrat Ronnie Musgrove is expected to seek another term. Attorney General Mike Moore is considering challenging Musgrove for the Democratic nomination.
Barbour said he wanted to hear from people who have helped him and other Republicans in the past including former Gov. Kirk Fordice, U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott and U.S. Reps. Roger Wicker and Chip Pickering.
Although many local Republicans believe Barbour is the party's best hope for governor, he said winning the nomination will require hard work.

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