Former Republican National Committee chairman and Mississippi governor Haley Barbour says he will support presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Many GOP leaders in Mississippi and around the country announced their support for Trump despite previously supporting other candidates after Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich suspended their campaigns after Trump won Tuesday’s Indiana primary.

Barbour, who led the national party between 1993 and 1997, had not endorsed or publicly supported any presidential candidate this year or in either of the last two presidential elections. But in an interview Thursday, he said he would support Trump moving forward.

“Momma used to say, ‘Life is a series of choices’,” Barbour said. “And in this case, the

choice is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I would rather have Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton because I don’t want another four years of Obama on steroids. I would rather take my chances on Trump than get what I know is coming from Mrs. Clinton.”

Riding touted job improvement statistics from the Obama administration, Clinton has said she wants to continue Obama’s job creation improvement since the recession. The Clinton campaign launched an economic plan in April that seeks to create new jobs and keep existing jobs in America by revoking tax incentives of companies that leave the country.

Barbour laid out talking points likely to be used by Republicans in countering Clinton’s economic recovery claims, pointing to differences between the recovery seen under Obama and that recovery achieved during the Reagan administration:

  • Under Obama’s administration, the economy has grown 2.2 percent based on GDP versus more than 4.5 percent under Reagan in the same number of months.
  • Median household income is about $1,600 less than when Obama took office versus a growth of $3,900 under the Reagan administration in the same number of months.
  • Polling data published by Real Clear Politics this week shows that 66.1 percent of Americans believe the country is “on the wrong track,” an encouragement to a Republican presidential candidate because just 38 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republican.

“A 2.1-2.2 percent economic growth based on GDP doesn’t feel like a recovery in many places,” Barbour said. “In the heartland, on Main Street, small businesses, middle class and working class people, they can’t tell the difference between the recession and the recovery.”

Trump has garnered mixed reactions from Republicans since he announced his candidacy last year. The New York real estate mogul has made headlines – many negative – for comments on Muslims, immigration and foreign policy.

Still, Trump earned 47.3 percent of the vote (25 of 40 delegates) in Mississippi’s March Republican primary. Cruz earned 36.3 percent (15 delegates).

Numerous times, Trump has said he will unite the Republican party. Barbour, who served two years as White House political director for then-President Ronald Reagan, said Reagan’s ability to bring the party together will likely not be matched if Trump is elected.

“Reagan was one of the most considerate people I’ve been around in my life,” Barbour said. “He would just not believe some of the stuff that’s said about people to people. He’d be appalled. And he did not hate the people who were on the other side. He thought they were Americans just like him.”

Other notable Republicans from the Magnolia State now backing Trump include Gov. Phil Bryant, who previously supported Cruz, and U.S. Reps. Gregg Harper and Steven Palazzo. Mississippi GOP Chairman Joe Nosef said in a statement this week the party should “get behind Donald Trump.”

But not all Republicans are on board. On Thursday, U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said he could not yet support Trump. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who was an early favorite for the Republican nomination, said on Friday he would not support Trump but rather support “principled conservatives at the state and federal levels.”

Barbour said that though he has personal differences with Trump, his obligation to the Republican party supersedes any ill-will toward a certain candidate.

“Even though you don’t agree with it, sometimes you have to just accept that people have the right to choose the nominee, and that I have an obligation to support him,” Barbour said.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.