(CNN) – The chairman of the Republican Governors Association used his speech at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association Friday to rally support not for gun rights, but for energized involvement in this year's midterm elections.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told conservatives at the gathering that they should not have their sights set on 2012 as the time to retake political control of the country. Instead, Barbour said, conservatives should focus on 2010.
"This year's an enormous election," Barbour told the gathering of 2nd Amendment rights activists.
Although the anti-incumbent, anti-Washington mood of the country would seem to help conservatives and the GOP in the next six months, Barbour warned conservatives not to become complacent.
"I want to remind you that this election is not until November – that it is not a foregone conclusion that we're going to win," he said. "It is not foreordained that everybody who is for us today is going to be for us in November. Or that everybody who is for us today is actually going to vote in November."
So, Barbour told the gathering, that he had one message for them.
"We can't wait 'til 2012 to start taking our country back," the former chairman of the Republican National Committee said to applause. "This year's election is the election that matters."
Barbour noted that 37 governorships will be decided in November along with the congressional midterm elections.
He added, "These elections matter enormously and they will set the field, the tone for the 2012 election. We've got to start winning now to start getting our country turned back around."
Echoing many of the criticisms conservatives have leveled at the Obama administration and the Democratically-controlled Congress, Barbour slammed the amount of federal spending that has occurred at Democrats hands in the past 16 months. He implored the gathering to focus on electing officials in November who support conservative policies that would lead to more limited government, less taxes, less spending, and a more "rational" approach to regulation.
And Barbour, who lead the RNC when the GOP took control of Congress in the 1994 midterms, also said Friday that he thought the political environment in 2010 was better than it was 16 years ago.