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Haley Barbour: Obama has "very little understanding of how the economy works"

Gov. Haley Barbour speaks at a meeting of the Mississippi Energy Policy Institute in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011. Barbour says the Gulf Coast oil spill occurred because the companies involved deviated from industry standards, not because of the inherent risk of drilling offshore.
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
Haley Barbour
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

CHICAGO -- Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour visited President Obama's hometown of Chicago today and accused his administration of policies that showed "very little understanding of how the economy works."

Barbour, 63, is one of a slew of candidates feeling out the role of a Republican contender in the 2012 presidential election.

He spoke to members of the business community at Chicagoland's Chamber of Commerce, saying the current administration seemed to have "no trust in business, no sense of how entrepreneurs build new companies, no insight as to how small businesses create jobs."

Barbour concluded that "the simple fact is our economy is not performing anywhere near its potential."

He proposed an agenda that centered on several standard Republican positions, including the reduction of federal spending, smaller government and international business investment in the United States.

A good deal of his speech painted the Obama Administration as one which was reverting to conservative economic policies with the "zeal of a convert that just heard the Gospel."

"Now he's meeting with CEOs, extending the Bush tax cuts, even speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Talking to business leaders about the economy. Now that's 'change' even I can believe in," he said.

He even mocked the president's speaking abilities, asking the audience to forgive Barbour's own use of a teleprompter.

"This is President Obama's hometown," he joked. "So 'When in Rome', right?"

He also said the current direction of economic policy has failed to help ease energy costs. Barbour said four dollar per gallon gasoline, a price that areas of the country have neared in recent weeks, is not good for business or families.

The speech was followed by a short question and answer session with members of the audience that included employees from Motorola, Hyatt, and Walgreens.

Asked if he would announce his candidacy for a presidential run, Barbour gave a direct answer.

"No," said Barbour, to laughs from the crowd. "That was easy."