COLUMBIA - Republicans hoping to win primaries in June and elections in the fall kicked off a weekend of campaigning Friday night with the annual GOP Silver Elephant Dinner.
More than 1,000 people were on hand at the party fundraiser as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour reminded the crowd at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center that they have to stay focused on 2006 elections and turning out votes and not to be distracted by what might happen in the 2008 presidential race.
Some called Mr. Barbour a possible presidential candidate, but he squelched that talk a few months ago and told reporters Friday that it was more important to mind the needs of Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.
"There's nothing that we can do in '06 that will be as crucial to electing a Republican president in '08 as winning the elections in 2006," Mr. Barbour said.
Republicans have to stay focused on issues in the 2006 midterm races, he said.
"If it's about emotions, if it's about personalities, if it's about anything but the issues, that helps the Democrats, that help the liberals," Mr. Barbour said.
The dinner, the biggest annual fundraising event for the South Carolina GOP, brought in more than last year's $200,000, state GOP executive director Scott Malyerck said.