It’s always a special occasion when Haley Barbour, the last of the authentic southern Good ol’ Boys, turns up at a Republican event up north. As he did Saturday night as the keynote speaker at the GOP state dinner in Columbus. From the standpoint of easy humor, Barbour is a kind of Ronald Reagan with jowls. I have close-up memories.

This time, he needed all that he could muster with feel-good circumspect as he bounded into a state where the two top Republicans are being generously touted by their handlers as potential presidential candidates in 2016. From the report I read in the Columbus Dispatch, that could only mean Gov. Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman, although neither has openly committed to such a big night on the town. Nor will they until they are convinced that the seas will graciously part.

Barbour thought Kasich would be an excellent president. Who knew! On the other hand, he defended Portman’s decision to support same-sex marriage, which roiled the Tea Party and social conservatives because his son is gay. That only defined a father-son pardon rather than an ideology.

The rest of the time Barbour assailed the Tea Party enemy and, as they are wont to do when their guy is on the canvas from the fringe, quoted Reagan, who said “somebody who agrees with you 80 pct. of the time is not a 20 pct. traitor.” Hadn’t heard that one before, but won’t be surprised if we hear it again.

Barbour himself ran afoul of his first language in a jumble of explanations back in 20l1 when he was in the GOP presidential mix. As Mississippi governor, he didn’t seem that alarmed by white supremacist citizens’ councils nor the KKK until it occurred to him that he should have been prudently bothered.

Many folks didn’t find that worthy of a chuckle.