Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour may have dropped out of the POTUS primary race, but that doesn’t mean he’s evaporated from presidential politics. During an appearance on the John King show he faced the question of whether or not potential candidate Jon Huntsman was conservative enough and qualified to be the GOP standard bearer next year.

HALEY BARBOUR: “Jon Huntsman and I served together, and while we don’t agree on some issues, there’s no question that he’s a conservative. He’s way to the right of Barack Obama for goodness sake. But yeah, I consider Jon a conservative. As I said, we have some issues that I think are important that we have different views on. But he was in the Reagan administration, elected governor of a very conservative state — elected and re-elected by the way. So if you’re asking me if Jon Huntsman is qualified to the Republican nominee for President of the United States, the answer is, of course he is.”

Well, now. I suppose that’s an endorsement of sorts. Yes, it’s true that we frequently try to read too much into every statement, wink, nod and hand gesture of politicos, so maybe that’s all this was. To my knowledge, Haley Barbour has yet to officially endorse anyone to be the Republican nominee, and there’s a good chance he’s following Reagan’s 11th commandment here.

But if I were trying to bolster somebody’s conservative bona fides in a comparative fashion, I might have selected a stalking horse who was at least in the Republican party. Then again, if he tried to say that Huntsman was more conservative than any of the other potential contenders, it could have been seen as a shot across their bow.

Of course, given the rousing reception that Huntsman received in New Hampshire this week, Barbour may be smart to keep all of his endorsement options on the table. Jon is going to continue to face questions from the base, as we discussed previously, because he’s seen as something of a mixed bag when it comes to conservative issues, but he definitely looks like he’s getting his game face on.