Barbour’s Baggage

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The conventional wisdom goes that Haley Barbour, were he to run for president, would struggle as a son of the deep south and former super-lobbyist. Matt Yglesias and Ben Smith cover some of the problems from the former category raised in Andrew Ferguson’s cover piece in the Weekly Standard today. Ferguson gets into the latter issue as well:

So deeply was Barbour enmeshed in the money culture of Washington that he even put up money for a restaurant in partnership with Tommy Boggs, a fellow lobbyist (Democratic flavored) with a reputation as large as Barbour’s. Called the Caucus Room, it is less an eatery than a staging area for Washington operators. The fare is steak and martinis, the prices are inflated beyond reason, the décor is all mahogany and manly leather, and the floor plan ensures a dozen nooks and crannies and tucked-away rooms for private parties. Walking in you can’t help but think that there’s one restaurant designer who’s seen too many episodes of West Wing. Except the Caucus Room is real, and it was an instant success with Barbour’s friends on Capitol Hill. Over one two-year period, Bloomberg News reported, members of Congress spent more than $300,000 at the Caucus Room, with an average bill of $1,140. Barbour has since sold his stake, but for a time his involvement with the restaurant was almost a parody of Washington insiderdom—a Christopher Buckley novel come horribly to life.

Barbour likes to spin it as an asset — a lobbyist-in-chief sort of thing — but it’s very hard to picture that getting him too far when this kind of Beltway caricature is being mercilessly wielded against him in a presidential election.