[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/12/art.barbour.jpg caption ="Frequent GOP critic of Obama ‘tickled’ that president will visit."]
Washington (CNN) - Mississippi’s Republican governor, a frequent critic of President Obama, is passing up an opportunity to criticize the president’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Instead, Gov. Haley Barbour says he is “tickled to death” that the president will visit Mississippi on Monday.
Barbour made the comments on Friday to Chief National Correspondent John King in an interview that aired on CNN’s John King, USA.
“We’re tickled to death that he is coming Monday,” Barbour told King. “He [Obama] has known that the red carpet was out for whenever he wanted to come.”
Barbour was asked to assess the president’s handling of the deepening oil spill, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
“I’m not going to pile on the president,” Barbour said. “I see the polls. I can read. But it serves no purpose for me to – to criticize him and I’m not going to.” Earlier in the interview Barbour said, “I will tell you generally ... the federal government has tried hard to do everything we possibly could do.”
Barbour is considered a potential challenger for the Republican nomination for president in 2012 and frequently criticizes Obama on other issues.
One area where Barbour does not agree with the president is on the issue of temporarily halting offshore drilling. The Obama administration has imposed a six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling. The White House says it’s important to first know exactly what caused the oil disaster.
“ … I do not believe we need to stop all drilling,” Barbour said.
“It's more than just jobs lost in the Gulf region, though it will be terrible - it will be a huge economic negative impact - but because of what it will do to America. It will hurt our energy security tremendously,” the governor said.
“And the idea that these oil rigs - 33 of them that were out there drilling wells in the deep water - are going to sit around here for six months during this moratorium and then be here to start drilling … the idea that we're only going to lose six months of drilling is just wrong-headed,” Barbour added.
Updated: 6/12/10, 10 a.m.