He was conservative, but in the memorable words of Mike Huckabee, he wasn’t angry about it. He was strategic and policy-oriented, but he also understood the politics behind the policy. He was always on message, but he never was dull when he talked to the press. Even back then, he was the total package.

Now Haley Barbour is the governor of Mississippi and the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. He played an important, if behind-the-scenes, role in the two elections that turned out well for Republicans yesterday. As the RGA chairman, he helped the candidates with fundraising, with messaging and with turnout.

Interestingly, he played no role in the debacle in New York’s 23rd district. He didn’t pop off to trash the Republican candidate. He didn’t call for a purge of Republican leadership. He didn’t blame the moderates or the conservatives. When asked on a cable show what he thought would happen up there, he said he didn’t know enough about it, because he was focused on the governors’ races. Like I said, Haley is a smart guy.

Barbour had left Washington by the time the George W. Bush administration started seriously going off track. In fact, during the lowest point of the Bush tenure — Hurricane Katrina — Barbour was showing the world true leadership. He led neighboring state Mississippi with true distinction, helping it through the crisis, responding quickly to the security problems and then coming up with a plan to rebuild. The contrast to Democratic leadership in the neighboring state, Louisiana, couldn’t have been clearer.

There has been some talk about who the next leader of the party should be. I wrote late last year that the party needed another Haley Barbour, who as Republican National Committee chairman helped rebuild the party in the early 1990s, the last time Republicans were in the wilderness.

Maybe we don’t need another Haley Barbour. Maybe we just need the Haley Barbour. He provides some necessary adult supervision. He doesn’t pop off on things he doesn’t know about. He doesn’t play Republicans against one another. He doesn’t call for purges against the moderates. He is an adult. The party needs one right now.

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