"It's going to be a horse race," said Dr. Kathy Baxter, a political analyst and dean of academic affairs at Meridian Community College.
"I wouldn't make any bets," said Baxter. "Right now there are many unknowns, but it is going to be the most interesting gubernatorial race that we've had in a long time."
Interesting, she says, because incumbent Gov. Ronnie Musgrove is eligible to run for reelection and is expected to run, and also because
of Barbour's ties to the national Republican Party.
"With Barbour's ties to the national party he will be able to call on Republican strengths," said Baxter. "I wouldn't be surprised if President Bush came down and campaigned for him."
Even without national recognition, Dr. Baxter said if Musgrove decides to run again, his tireless campaigning efforts could once again work in his favor.
"He'll surprise you, I think, because he will be everywhere talking to lots of people at lots of different events," she said.
Sally Brown of Meridian, a member of the Mississippi Republican Party Executive Committee, says there is no one so far challenging Barbour for the GOP nomination.
"Although I haven't heard of any, they are probably just waiting to see what Barbour will officially do."
One who is thought to be on the GOP sidelines is Lt. Governor Amy Tuck. Although she may have aspirations to one day become governor, Dr. Baxter projects that Tuck would not run against fellow Republican Haley Barbour.
On the Democratic side, Dr. Baxter says for now at least, rumors of Attorney General Mike Moore running are just that ---rumors. And Baxter doubts that former Cong. Ronnie Shows would run against an incumbent Democrat like Musgrove.
On Feb. 4, Barbour will hold an organizational meeting in Meridian at Holiday Inn on Highway 39. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m.
The qualifying deadline for governor and all other state and local offices is just over a month away on Feb. 28.