Mississippi Governor: Gubernatorial Stars Are the Route to GOP White House in 2012

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a possible 2012 contender, says the route to the White House goes through the state houses.

Even though the GOP has suffered significant losses in the last two national elections, Barbour said the GOP must first win back gubernatorial seats in upcoming elections in order to re-take the bully pulpit.

"There is nothing that's going to happen in 2009 and '10 that will affect the 2012 presidential election as much as how Republicans fare in the 2009-'10 elections," Barbour told FOX News in an interview Saturday during the National Governors Association meeting. "I'm going to spend my political energy and time in electing Republican governors."

Barbour and the RGA are focused on winning gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia this year, but in 2010 a total of 37 governors seats are up for grabs.

Barbour deflected questions on whether he was interested in a bid but said the upside of the Republican Party's being out of power is that it can use its time and a number of GOP voices to rebuild and better position itself.

"People have been hearing from the Bush administration for the last eight years," Barbour said. 

"There are a lot of people in the Republican Party who have a chance to be heard now, and we want to hear from them. When you're the out party you don't have one spokesman."

Barbour who heads up his party's governors association singled out Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota as "stars" of the party. 

He also described outgoing Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as someone who still is a "very popular" member of the GOP. 

"I just think she's a great person, and she's also a bona fide energy expert," Barbour said, citing her recent editorial against a climate change bill now in Congress. Palin, surprising many, announced earlier this month that she has decided to end her term early as governor.

Interestingly, all three state chiefs, as well as several other governors, were not in attendance at the NGA meeting this weekend. Many governors are busy with budget woes back home, Barbour said.

FOX News' Jonathan Serrie, and David Lewkowict contributed to this report.