In Mississippi we choose our four members of the U.S. House of Representatives and mostly local judicial races this November. Thirty-seven other states will make their gubernatorial decisions this year in addition to congressional elections.

Mississippi's statewide elections are next year in 2011. Mississippi joins Kentucky and Louisiana as the only three states that hold their elections in the off-year before the presidential election. Just as these 2010 elections nationwide serve as a measuring stick for the first two years of the Obama Administration; Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana will be the bellwethers going into the 2012 presidential cycle.

Some national Republicans hope Mississippi Governor Haley R. Barbour - who due to term limits cannot seek reelection in 2011 and whose term ends in January of 2012 - will be on the ballot in the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary as a GOP presidential candidate.

I smile when liberals derisively reject out-of-hand that Barbour could win the presidency. They sound like Republicans who scoffed that an unknown and inexperienced state legislator two years into his first U.S. Senate term named Barack Hussein Obama could ever even beat Hillary Clinton, much less become President of the United States.

Anyone who wins the nomination of one of the two major parties in America has a legitimate shot at winning the presidency.

Could Republicans choose Barbour - political director for President Ronald Reagan; Republican National Committee Chairman and co-architect of the 1994 Republican Revolution; successful and popular two-term governor - as their nominee? Of course.

Could President Obama facing already 53 percent disapproval (Rasmussen Reports), 51 percent saying he should not be re-elected (USA Today / Gallup), and 10 plus percent unemployment lose reelection? Of course.

I'm not saying Barbour will be the next president; I'm not even saying Barbour will run for president; but I am saying that if he did, he would have a good chance to become the Republican nominee against a politically weakened and unpopular incumbent. "Mississippi can do better" worked in 2003; maybe "America can do better" would work in 2012.

Yet whenever reporters ask Barbour about a presidential campaign he reminds them he is focused on 2010 not 2012. As Chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), Barbour applies his instincts and strategies to that national campaign this year. He is winning friends and allies in the process.

Last year the Washington Post called the RGA's efforts in Virginia "devastating" to Democrats and Real Clear Politics said it was the "RGA to the rescue" in New Jersey. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will both remember and appreciate Barbour's efforts.

Of the gubernatorial seats up for election this year, Republicans currently hold eighteen; Democrats hold nineteen.

According to an April analysis by Dutko Research, five Democratic seats are leaning Republican (Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wyoming, Kansas) and six more Democratic seats are tossups (Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin). Eight Republican seats were listed as tossups (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont). Dutko noted eight states leaning, likely or safely to be retained by Democrats (Arkansas, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Illinois) and ten states leaning, likely or safely to be retained by Republicans (Idaho, Nebraska, Alaska, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Dakota).

The comeback for Republicans may begin with gubernatorial races, but the grassroots remain focused on the races for the U.S. House of Representatives and whether Democrats will retain their majority to keep Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or Republicans can net the 39 seats necessary to reach the magic number of 218 for a majority. In 1994, two years after Democrat Bill Clinton took office, Republicans captured 54 seats.

In 1994, a Republican state senator from Tupelo named Roger Wicker won an open seat race for Mississippi's First Congressional District putting it in the hands of the GOP for the first time since Reconstruction. This year another Republican state senator from Tupelo, Alan Nunnelee, is running to put this seat back in the Republican column. It isn't an open seat, but one held by the freshman Democrat Travis Childers.

A Tarrance Group poll shows Nunnelee leading Childers 50 to 42 percent. Unlike 2008 when a bitter primary fractured Northeast Mississippi conservatives, Childers faces a unified GOP with Nunnelee - the nominee - endorsed by his former competitors. This is the kind of seat Republicans need to win to defeat Speaker Pelosi.

Republicans face a tougher fight in the Senate where they would need to sweep nearly every seat to take the majority. Few expect that victory, but even Democrats concede the GOP will make gains. Republicans could even capture the seats vacated by President Barack Obama in Illinois and Vice President Joe Biden in Delaware; defeat the liberal icon Barbara Boxer in California; and replace Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.

Obama has even brought "hope" to Republicans.

Brian Perry is a partner with a public affairs firm. Contact him at