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As oil threatens Mississippi, Barbour at GOP fundraisers

BILOXI, Miss. — Gov. Haley Barbour rushed back to Mississippi from Washington early on Friday upon news that large amounts of oil is threatening the Coast, and said his national political work is not distracting him from guiding the Magnolia State through the BP disaster.

Barbour on Thursday held Washington fund-raisers for the Republican Governors Association, which he heads, and for one of his political action committees, which is raising money for GOP congressional candidates. His fund-raising is receiving some national media attention and feuling speculation that he is already gearing up for a run for president in 2012.

Barbour said he's fully engaged in Mississippi, helping Republicans "take the country back" with congressional elections in 2010 and that he's not going to ponder the presidential election until after the November elections. He said his trip to Washington this week was not all about national politics and that he met with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and had a meeting planned with Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus about the oil disaster. He said the meeting with Mabus has been rescheduled for next week, probably in Mississippi.

"I travel a fair amount as governor for state business, and for political stuff with the RGA and for other candidates," Barbour said. "Constant physical presence is not required if you have the right people, the right team in place, and we do. I've been governor for six-and-a-half years, and have been involved in stuff going on nationally, helping President Bush get re-elected . . . And I am proud of my record as governor."

Barbour said that anyone in politics who is focused on the 2012 presidential race "isn't keeping their eye on the ball," a comment he's made several times when asked if he might run.

"The most important thing right now is the 2010 elections," Barbour said. "We can't wait until 2012 to take back our country."

Barbour, former head of the Republican National Committee and longtime Washington lobbyist, said his Republican fund-raising work is needed in part because labor unions are giving Democratic candidates "gigantic, unheard of amounts of money."

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