Gov. Haley R. Barbour completed his term as chairman of the Republican Governors Associaion last week. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas will be the new chairman. Barbour stepped into the newly created role of policy chairman.

Under Barbour's leadership, the RGA spent $12.5 million in 2009 to help win critical gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey. In 2010, the RGA deployed $102 million to win 23 of 37 gubernatorial seats up for election.

To keep it in perspective, $100 million is not a third of what John McCain spent running for president ($333 million) and doesn't even come to close to what Barack Obama spent in 2008 ($730 million). Plus, RGA money was not restricted by federal contribution limits. But a better context would be to compare it to the Democratic Governors Association's spending in 2010 races: $50 million. Barbour's RGA doubled the Democrats in financial resources.

In a memo to RGA supporters the day after the election, RGA Executive Director Nick Ayers explained the task and the results: "After our Party suffered devastating losses in 2006, the RGA set forth a Four-Year-Plan in January 2007 to strengthen the foundation of the Republican Party, and our Nation, by rebuilding from the state level. We believed a resurgent GOP would only be made possible by reclaiming a majority of governorships. We knew electing a majority of governors would provide a decade's worth of new leadership at the state and federal level, give us an advantage with the Electoral College and allow us to control the reapportionment process. Last night, our mission was accomplished. The RGA won more than a majority of governorships and will be able to redefine the nation's politics."

Ayers noted the RGA spent $49.5 million in 10 swing states where the GOP won nine of ten races: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but losing Colorado. He wrote, "Of the 10 swing states mentioned above, 8 had Democratic governors in 2008. President Obama carried every one of the above swing states that had a Democratic governor except for Arizona. With Republicans winning back a majority, President Obama's 2012 map is much more difficult."

The RGA impact on reapportionment may be felt for a decade. Of the 18 states projected to gain or lose congressional seats, 15 had a gubernatorial election this year. Before the election Republicans held 8 of those states; after the election the GOP will now have 11.

The RGA grew in its diversity this year as well by assisting the successful gubernatorial election of four female, one Indian-American, and two Hispanic candidates. Susana Martinez in New Mexico will be sworn in as the nation's first female Hispanic governor from either party. Nikki Haley of South Carolina will be the second Indian-American governor following in the footsteps of another Republican, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal.

Ayers said, "The RGA has said all year that 2010 was not an anti-incumbent year. It was an anti-tax-and-spend year. We were confident that because of the way our incumbents had governed all of them would win reelection, and they did."

The Democrats counter that despite the wave, they won five open seats in states formerly held by Republicans: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota and Vermont. The DGA claims it was the most successful Democratic committee this cycle. It lost 5 mansions compared to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that lost 6 seats and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that lost sixty-plus seats.

For individual Republicans, the RGA wins have political opportunities as well.

Talk of "Barbour for President" was widespread among Washington insiders before he led the RGA to its national victories. Based on his record as governor and his national appeal to Republican leaders following his leadership as Republican National Committee Chairman in 1994, he was discussed as a viable candidate for the Republican nomination in 2012. After doing it again as RGA Chairman, that chatter has increased to a chorus.

Ayers joined the RGA as executive director in January 2007 fresh off managing Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's successful 2006 re-election campaign. Many in the RGA advocate Ayers to be the next RNC Chairman as a challenger to current Chairman Michael Steele. Were Ayers to make that challenge and win, he would become the GOP's youngest national chairman ever at age 28.

Governors Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey - assisted to their positions by the RGA in 2009 - have support for potential presidential bids in 2012.

As for Barbour, he will continue with the RGA as policy chairman, a position where he will surely apply his axiom "good policy is good politics."



Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.