Is Mississippi Too Much of a Dysfunctional Backwater For Haley Barbour to Become President?

The last time a subset of the American people voted to make a Mississippian President, the Mississippian in question was Jefferson Davis and he was President of the Confederate States of America. Liz Sidoti’s coverage of current Governor Haley Barbour’s all-but-announcement of a presidential campaign suggests there may be something about that state that stands in his way:

Trying to draw a contrast, the two-term Republican governor also boasted of his own record on economic growth and job creation in Mississippi, a state that has long been ranked at the bottom for personal income and education. “We still have more to do in Mississippi. But we have made great progress and are laying a foundation for the future,” Barbour said. […]

“What I learned as governor of Mississippi is that ‘winning the future’ doesn’t start in Washington, D.C.,” Barbour said, a swipe at the White House’s latest slogan. “It won’t be accomplished through government boondoggles like taxpayer-subsidized high-speed rail or other pet projects. It can’t be achieved by having government take control of our automakers, financial sector, health care system and energy industry. […]

Broken down by state, Mississippi had the highest share of poor people, at 23.1 percent, according to rough calculations by the Census Bureau in 2010. The median annual income is around $36,000 and 18 percent of its population has no health insurance.

Low human development indicators didn’t stop Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton from winning in 1992, and my generic assumption is that this sort of thing doesn’t actually matter much in a general election. But there’s not a ton of precedent for it. Arkansas wasn’t a very high-performing state, but it’s a conservative one so Clinton was playing against type. Michael Dukakis and George W Bush were governors of stereotypically left-wing and right-wing states, but Massachusetts and Texas are both very successful states in their own ways. To nominate a right-wing politician from a state that’s a byword for the failures of conservative governance would be pretty odd, especially when there’s an orthodox conservative governor of Minnesota on offer as an alternative. But, hey, weird things happen. Back in 2008, Democrats went with the inexperienced black guy with a funny name.