[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/08/art.barbour0208.gi.jpg caption="Mississippi's Republican Gov. Haley Barbour will visit South Carolina on March 15 to keynote the Spartanburg County GOP's annual President's Day dinner."]
Washington (CNN) - Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, one of several Republicans thought to be considering a White House bid in 2012, is making another trip to a key early voting state.
Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will visit South Carolina on March 15 to keynote the Spartanburg County GOP's annual President's Day dinner. Spartanburg County GOP Chairwoman LaDonna Ryggs told CNN that the event – which she described as "a very large fundraiser" – was re-scheduled from its original date in February.
Barbour has already made trips in recent months to the presidential proving grounds of Iowa and New Hampshire, but at the time he said those trips were part of his duties as RGA chairman. South Carolina will elect a new governor in November.
One of Barbour's political confidantes said it's understandable the governor's political travels will raise suspicions about a possible 2012 bid, but said Barbour is genuinely focused of winning governor's races this fall.
"It's natural that people will make some assumptions because South Carolina is an early primary state, but if it had been Alabama or Florida or some other state, he would have been just as eager to go," said the person close to Barbour, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about his thinking. "It is who is he is. He loves going to these things. He calls it political recreation."
Ryggs said she reached out to invite Barbour to the dinner, because he is a strong conservative who "is very popular" in Spartanburg County. "He will be a good draw," she said.
Ryggs added that she has been in touch with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal about appearing in Spartanburg later this year.
She also said she reached out last year to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels about a visit, but was told that the governor was planning to focus on his home state for the time being. She said Daniels would "definitely be contender" for the Republican nomination if he decided to run.
But Ryggs expressed surprise that more potential presidential candidates haven't made early trips to South Carolina. Possible contenders like Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence and Rick Santorum have made recent visits, but the state hasn't seen the same kind of early foot traffic that it did in the two years before the 2008 election.
Ryggs said she was particularly surprised that she never heard back from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty after reaching out to his staff about a possible South Carolina appearance.
"We want them to start coming to South Carolina," she said. "I was really surprised, because I thought if they were serious about running they would start to branch out by now."