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Top New Hampshire GOP strategist teams up with Haley Barbour

Mike Dennehy, who worked with John McCain in 2000 and 2008, will advise Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour as he tests the political waters in New Hampshire ahead of a possible 2012 presidential bid.

March 16, 2011|By Paul West and Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — A top New Hampshire Republican strategist has signed on to Haley Barbour's nascent presidential campaign, a potential boost to the Mississippi governor's efforts in a key primary state.

Mike Dennehy, who was John McCain's New Hampshire campaign manager in 2000 and his national political director in 2008, will advise Barbour's efforts in the Granite State during his "testing the waters" phase.

"If Haley Barbour runs for President he'll be a formidable candidate as a two-term Governor from Mississippi dealing with national crises like Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill and not being afraid to tackle the tough issues while balancing his state budget by cutting spending, creating efficiencies and holding the line on taxes," Dennehy said in an e-mailed statement. "His charisma, personality and excitement for retail politics will make him an ideal candidate for New Hampshire should he decide to run."

Barbour has said he will make a final decision on running for president at the end of his state's  legislative session next month. He has been traveling to key states in anticipation of a campaign, however.

On Monday he offered a critique of the Obama administration's economic policy in the president's home town of Chicago. Tuesday he made his second visit to Iowa, which hosts the first presidential caucuses. In a speech at the Chairman's Dinner in Davenport, the Republican raised eyebrows for questioning America's mission in Afghanistan and called for cuts to the Pentagon budget.

Barbour is serving his final year as governor of Mississippi. Considered one of the party's best strategists, he was chairman of the Republican National Committee when the party won control of Congress in 1994, and served as chairman of the Republican Governors Assn. from 2009-10 as the party won a majority of gubernatorial contests.

paul.west@latimes.com

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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