Sally Bradshaw, a veteran Florida GOP strategist and confidante of former Gov. Jeb Bush, is joining Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s political committee this week as he moves increasingly closer to a presidential bid.
Bradshaw’s decision amounts to one of the first high-profile defections by a top advisor to Mitt Romney in 2008. Her experience in the nation's biggest battleground state makes her a sizable catch.
“I have a great deal of respect for Gov. Romney, but I have known Haley Barbour for years and know he will be a bold leader guided by principle in the face of challenges,’’ Bradshaw said. “His work for Mississippi during (Hurricane) Katrina is an example of this. I believe he is the best man for the job.’’
Scott Reed, who ran Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign and is supporting Barbour, said: “Sally is a world-class operative who reaches far beyond the Florida shores.''
Bradshaw said discussed her decision with Gov. Bush, whose endorsement is one of the most highly prized in Florida.
“Haley is a good man and fortunate to have her on his team if he runs,’’ Bush wrote in an e-mail.
Barbour, who has headed the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association, is known for his political savvy and fundraising prowess. But he also had a long and lucrative career as a Washington lobbyist, a part of his resume that supporters are downplaying at a time when tea party fervor has made inside-the-Beltway connections suspect.