Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
HOOKSETT, N.H. With a 22-person media contingent outside, and only a handful of prospective voters inside, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour wasn't trying to conceal the message he was sending to New Hampshire voters as he wound down his first visit of the year as a prospective presidential contender.
I'm one of you, he said with deeds as much as words nonetheless spoken with a Southern drawl.
The visit to Riley's Gun Shop in Hooksett underscored not only Barbour's support for Second Amendment freedoms, but also his affinity for the ideals embraced in the lead presidential primary state.
During a conversation with owner Ralph Demicco and, later, reporters against a backdrop of ammunition boxes, Barbour expressed his support for low taxes and aversion to government spending; for the right to keep and bear arms; and for the Granite State's conservative tradition.
"I told them outside, 'A lot of targets' the liberal media," Barbour quipped to Demicco as the two chatted amid a pack of reporters, television, and still cameras.
During the press conference afterward, Barbour:
* Refused to get drawn into the "birther" debate about whether President Obama was born in the United States.
"I just accept at face value that the president was born where he said he was born," said Barbour.
* Argued the twin disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill have proved his mettle under the test of a crisis.
"I have had experiences with crises that not every governor has to deal with and I pray that they don't," he said.
* Danced around a question about whether he would serve on a Republican ticket as a vice presidential running mate were his own campaign for president to fail. Barbour has yet to declare his candidate for the top job, but has promised a decision by the end of the month.
The governor said "I have no intention or interest" in seeking the job, in part because it would undercut any consideration of him for president.
He also argued that he wouldn't bring electoral support to any ticket.
"Any Republican candidate for president who can't carry Mississippi is not going to get very far," he said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.