JACKSON, Miss. -- Bill Clinton of Arkansas, a Democrat, jumped from the governorship of a poor Southern state to the presidency in 1992. Now, some Republicans seem to be suggesting that Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour, could follow suit in 2008.
Barbour, 57, a Washington lobbyist and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, says he has no plans to run. But he isn't ruling out the possibility.
''Well, I could lose 50 pounds. I might even grow four inches. You never know," Barbour said in his Mississippi Delta drawl. ''But that's not my intention."
Among other Republicans: the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich of Georgia; the former New York mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani; Governors George S. Pataki of New York, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee; and Senators George Allen of Virginia, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and John McCain of Arizona.
Larry Sabato, director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Virginia, said it is unlikely, but not impossible, that Barbour could be the nominee.
''He is very popular in the party ranks," Sabato said.
As governor, Barbour has appealed to conservatives by pushing lawmakers to add restrictions to some of the toughest abortion laws in the country.
He also persuaded legislators to put limits on liability lawsuits, and to curb the verdicts that have given Mississippi a reputation for dispensing ''jackpot justice."
Behind-the-scenes efforts are underway to generate buzz about a possible Barbour run for the White House. Ed Rogers, one of Barbour's friends and former lobbying partners, has registered two websites -- www.haley2008.com and www.haleyforpresident.com.
Still, Barbour's only experience in elected office is as governor of Mississippi, a state that usually ranks at or near the bottom in categories such as income and education spending.
''Mississippi, I think, would still have baggage," said Earl Black, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.
Barbour was political director for the Reagan White House for two years in the 1980s. He was the Republican National Committee chairman from 1993 to 1997, and he helped to engineer the GOP congressional majority in 1994. Barbour and his wife, Marsha, have maintained a home in Yazoo City while he lobbied for tobacco and pharmaceutical companies and for groups such as