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Jindal Makes a Political Power Play

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is putting his political brand to the test, a gamble that could influence his long-term prospects for national office. (Photo by Bill Haber -- AP)

On its face, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to appear in an ad endorsing state Treasurer John Kennedy in his challenge to Sen. Mary Landrieu isn't that big a surprise.

After all, Jindal is the Republican governor of the state and Kennedy is his party's Senate nominee.

But, those familiar with Jindal's career -- marked almost entirely by a desire to avoid the appearance of partisanship -- see the endorsement as a sign of Jindal's long term ambitions, ambitions that could include a White House bid down the line.

They point out that this is the first race Jindal has waded into since becoming governor in 2007 (he took a pass on endorsing in any of the primary runoffs that year), and that by aggressively vouching for Kennedy he is putting his popularity and reformer brand to the test in a highly visible way.

Jindal is, without question, seen as a rising star within the national GOP. He won the governor's office in 2007 without a runoff (a seemingly impossible feat for a Republican just a few years ago) and those familiar with Jindal's poll numbers insist he is among the most popular governors in the country -- with those thinking favorably outpacing those who regard him unfavorably by an eight to one margin. He also has gained attention for pushing a series of ethics reforms designed to clean up the notoriously dirty state government in the Bayou State.

"We made a fresh start in Louisiana and we need a fresh start in Washington too," Jindal says in the ad. "John Kennedy in Washington. Now that's the change we need."

It's clear from the ad that Jindal is seeking to test the transference of his political brand. Kennedy, by all accounts, is currently trailing Landrieu in polling and, as recently as last week, the National Republican Senatorial Committee decided to pull its ads out of the race -- believing it to be a lost cause.

A new poll -- showing Kennedy within five points -- convinced the party committee that the race was winnable and the NRSC re-bought ad time this week.

Still, Kennedy is rightly seen as an underdog so Jindal is taking a real risk in endorsing him so prominently and so close to election day. If Kennedy goes on to win (or lose VERY narrowly) Jindal's influence will likely be increased as a political kingmaker. If Kennedy goes down to a convincing defeat, on the other hand, some of the shine on Jindal will have worn off in the eyes of some in national Republican circles.

Make no mistake: If John McCain goes down to defeat in 13 days time and Republicans in the House and the Senate face significant setbacks as well, there will be a real desire from the grassroots of the Republican party for fresh faces on the national scene.

Jindal -- a young (he's 37), conservative Indian American governor -- is almost certain to feature prominently in that conversation. And, as much as his political team pooh poohs the idea that he would be interested in national office in four years' time, consider these two things: he has already gotten a taste of the national limelight by his consideration in the veepstakes and his handling of Hurricane Gustav, AND he is visiting Iowa next month. (As we have written before, politicians NEVER -- we can't stress this enough -- go to Iowa accidentally. They know exactly what a trip to Iowa means.

Jindal's play in the Senate race is a gamble -- and we at The Fix applaud political gamblers. We can't wait to see how it turns out.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 22, 2008; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Governors , Republican Party , Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Political Take: McCain's Shrinking Map and Palin's New Wardrobe
Next: House Republicans Bow to Political Reality


The weak man is John McCain along with his sidekick Palin. McCain was broken by the Viet Con, and became a POW martyr. He shouldn't have been allowed to go and fly fighter planes in Vietnam since he had a horrible Navy plance crash record. The Navy showed signs of desperation to send anyone who couldn't fly a plane with accuracy, knowing the odds of failed pilots like McCain would be shot down and taken as a number for "Charlie". It showed poor judgment of the military to send a pilot to war without 100% excellent ratings and credentials. It showed his dad got him into the war, otherwise, I would think the Navy would have had more sense and judgment. McCain has been broken in the worst way, body, mind, and spirit. With al Queda, they want McCain to become President, who has been a Socialist since birth by military family, he was military, and now a 26 year Senate veteran on the government dollar, and Indian Internal Affairs he turned his back on. And, al Queda can't wait to show up Palin's Communistic throwbacks and weaknesses. Who do you want in a crisis, someone who has baggage of already been broken, and can be paid off at any price, or men of courage, steady at the helm, and can lead with promise, hope, aspiring others to inspire the upward expansion of America, internally and externally. You see, Republicans are so scared of losing their economic powers. They want to keep the middle class, poor, and Democrats beneath them so they can continue to have the power and control of America. They are afraid they might have to become lesser than they already are. Republicans are just pure Communists in party mentality, and if you don't join their party, they will destruct and destroy you, your family, your home, everything about you, and send everyone who isn't Republican Communist to Siberian camps. Do what I have done, as a Mayflower descendent, 7th Generation Texan via Tennessee, DAR legacy, European Royalty Descendant of Spain, Italy, France, Scotland, England to America and from ancient Macedonia and Egypt. With relatives like Louis Gossett, Jr., and Chad Pennington, I am a white woman who is very proud of her relatives and heritage.

I am endorsing Obama and Biden as our next President and Vice President 2008 of the United States of America who haven't been broken but strengthened by trials and tragedies that have already tested their abilities to serve in our highest offices of our great and resilient nation. Go to the voting booths and choose Obama/Biden with Clinton for change in 2008. Be of courage, wisdom, knowledge, and no fear to vote for the best candidates, Obama/Biden with Clinton.

God bless America.

Corporate Communications Specialist in Organizational Behaviors with Executive Leadership Development

Posted by: lgg51 | October 24, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Jindal is a Pentacostal Catholic (or something liek that). This makes him extreme in his religious views, of the Mel Gibson sort. He also claims to have participated in an excorsism. This makes him fringe and will squash any hopes of national office.

Posted by: bernicegls | October 24, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

What amazed me was when the cartoons were published of Condi Rice stereotyping her in the nastiest way, and no civil rights leaders protested.

Can you provide any specifics? Cartoonist, newspaper, specific cartoon, specific incident?

Rather than just some unsubstantiated accusation?

When Jimmy Carter was caricatured, cartoonists exaggerated HIS full lips and prominent teeth too.


Posted by: bracken1 | October 24, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Jindal is a up and coming star on the political scene. He's "next level" compared to Sarah Palin...Jindal has a grasp of issues and he seems to be a competent executive. It's hard to conceive of this guy not being able to answer the "what do you read" question...As far as GOP minorities, it's pretty clear that there's not a lot there. When names such as "Walt Williams" and "Thomas Sowell" are mentioned; that indicates that the party needs to do more in the "diversity" dept...Think about Rush's comments about Powell and how he implied that Powell was not duly grateful for what Bush has done for him...The reality is that the GOP "APPOINTS" diversity (think Powell, Rick, Clarence Thomas)...They need a gameplan to "ELECT" diversity...The GOP has no Black elected members in Congress...That's a challenge...Jindal's not AA but he's the best bet to draw minority votes away from Dems...If Obama's elected and has a strong first term, Jindal would be wise to wait until 2016 when he'll be JUST 45...The Dems don't have much on the horizon that could contend with Jindal unless Clinton tees it up again in 8 years.

Posted by: TruthHurts2 | October 24, 2008 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Jindal is nothing more than a male Palin. Nothing there.

Posted by: ElleninBigD | October 23, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

vfazio wrote, "Isn't Jindal a Muslim who was born in India? I saw it in an e-mail that a friend sent me, so it must be true. Whoever runs against him in 2012 can just borrow the McCain campaign playbook! I think the GOP would spend less time in the political wilderness if they came up with new ideas rather than simply young new faces to regurgitate the tired old discredited ideas. But as an America-hating Socialist, I am glad to witness the demise of the Grand Old White Man's Party."

Fazio, if you think that resentment-filled tirade is a ticket to electoral success, I've got a bridge in Arizona that I'd like to sell you.

Posted by: officermancuso | October 23, 2008 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Isn't Jindal a Muslim who was born in India? I saw it in an e-mail that a friend sent me, so it must be true. Whoever runs against him in 2012 can just borrow the McCain campaign playbook! I think the GOP would spend less time in the political wilderness if they came up with new ideas rather than simply young new faces to regurgitate the tired old discredited ideas. But as an America-hating Socialist, I am glad to witness the demise of the Grand Old White Man's Party.

Posted by: vfazio | October 23, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Out on a limb? Who will remember this in December? They thought Nixon was toast in 1960.

Posted by: caribis | October 23, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I keep reading and hearing from repbulicans and conservatives that Obama is somehow socialist or "marxist". Is George Bush a socialist or marxist? How about John McCain? He voted for George Bush's bailout of Wall Street and nationalizing of the banks and insurance companies. I really don't understand the hostility and name calling from the right of Obama. Obama supports the free market system. Our progressive tax code has always been about "redistributing of the wealth". Our economy isn't purely capatalist, it's a mixed economy just like most western democracies.

Posted by: arash2 | October 23, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Dear havok26,

Please stop the name calling. It is irresponsible and irresponsible. Argue the issues.

Governor Bobby Jindal is clearly not an idiot. The man is extremely smart and very hard working.

There was a reason that Governor Bobby Jindal thrashed the competition in the recent Governor's election. It is the same reason that the Democrats hardly dared to mention the word 'Katrina' during their recent convention.

Of all the Louisiana politicians, Jindal was the one that shone during Katrina.

Former Governor Blanco's reputation was so damaged a dinner with her sold for the joke amount of $1.

As for Senator Landrieu, lets hope she gets replaced. Her performance during Katrina was pitiful.

At least she did send a letter of support to our school congratulating on restarting. It was a shame that she did not help us get the school cleaned up or started up.

Posted by: Fred8 | October 23, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm just enjoying the half-axxed endorsements here by so-called "conservatives" and "Christians."

If you could hear yourself, you'd hear "colored" and "convert" and "even though he's a (fill in the blank)."

I'm not puzzled at all as to why Jindal is Republican. Many Indian-Americans are, because many of them own small businesses and are attracted to the "no taxes" and "no regulation of business" message that Republicans offer.

Just tell me how your customers are supposed to support you if they don't have jobs, don't have an education and can't use infrastructure that works (like, er, ROADS).

Jindal opportunist.

Can't be any more American that that!

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | October 23, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Jindal's kind of an idiot, but in the GOP being only kind of an idiot makes you a rising star. Enjoy the wilderness, Republicans, see you in a generation.

Posted by: havok26 | October 23, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Jindal is exponentially smarter than Palin. Comparing him to Palin is like comparing Brown University (his alma mater) to the five and dime community colleges through which Sarah Palin aimlessly meandered. I don't doubt the intensity of his Catholic conversion either. It seems very genuine. But as someone with Indian roots, I find it troubling that someone who grew up in a tolerant, progressive and hyper educated Indian-American home trots out social views that are more in line with a marginally educated, small town, close-minded preacher. Is it any wonder then that few Indian Americans (a generally tolerant and hyper educated bunch of people) feel any kinship with Jindal, and view him as a fraud. While personally deeply religious, Indian Americans are also staunch believers in a secular state and scientific rationalism. Thus, to us, Jindal is just another cultural warrior of the religious far right, hell bent on destroying a cherished tenet of American society - the separation of church and state.

Posted by: jaysit | October 23, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I'm a conservative Christian Republican, and I'm very enthusiastic about Jindal. The perceived racism in liberals' minds about conservatives is not true - we have blacks run in the GOP, usually the media does not publicize them or calls them Uncle Toms, though. What amazed me was when the cartoons were published of Condi Rice stereotyping her in the nastiest way, and no civil rights leaders protested.

The reason conservatives in general don't support Obama - we want less government, he wants more, we want a strong military, he doesn't, and we are pro-life, he supports the freedom of choice act which will remove ALL restrictions on abortion, including partial birth abortion. Obama's race only matters to maybe 2% of white GOP voters, and given how Hillary trounced him in some Dem strongholds, I'd say that's on par with the number of racists in the Dem party.

Now, if we stereotype anyplace as racist, rural Louisiana would fit the bill, yet Jindal won down there. If he turns that state around, I'd say he would be dynamite in the next round of GOP nominations.

Re. his religion - Obama converted to Christianity from a Muslim background (both his dad and his adopted Indonesian dad are Muslims and in his own autobiography he talks about going to mosque - you can read it in his own words!). I don't think Obama is a Muslim - he's a convert to Christianity. Similarly, Jindal is a convert from Hinduism. If Obama's conversion isn't a big deal, why should anyone care about Jindal's? It will be interesting to see if the media and liberals are as open minded with Jindal as they have been with Obama, though.

Posted by: ssohara | October 23, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

The only reason Jindal is the governer of LA is because of the displacement of so many poor black voters after the Katrina disaster. If he runs against say Mark Warner in eight years he'll get smoked.

Also there are too many racists in the republican base that would never vote for a minority candidate. They will take one look at him and instantly compare him to Barack Obama. Now that doesn't mean the whole base is that way but enough of it is to really have an effect.

Posted by: AndyR3 | October 23, 2008 7:45 AM | Report abuse

A Hindu Indian American who converted to Christianity for the sake of political future.. Interesting to see how he will be able to navigate questions about this religious conversion

Posted by: spider3 | October 23, 2008 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Gov. Jindal has much credibility, smarts, communication skills. HE IS ALSO COLORED.



Posted by: lazerboy | October 22, 2008 11:31 PM | Report abuse

I like both Jindal and Kennedy. I don't think Obama would be good for the economy of this country, if he became its' president, and the states of Colorado and Virginia may have more than enough of the sense it takes to realize that with each of their military installations, it may devastate their economies if Obama wins and has his way militarily.

Posted by: PROFINDS | October 22, 2008 10:52 PM | Report abuse

jwallace1 asks
"What about the Republican base? Do you think they will support a non-white? Is he Hindu?"

He is Catholic. If you're talking about the evangelical base, it is not clear at this time that they will still be the base in 2012. If you're talking about fiscal / small-gov't conservatives, they won't give a damn.

Posted by: bsimon1 | October 22, 2008 10:17 PM | Report abuse

scottm1207 wrote, ""What about the Republican base? Do you think they will support a non-white?"

"This is about the stupidest, most stereotypical and uniformed, comment I have heard in days from a liberal."


When all the world views you one way, and you see yourself differently, you might want to engage in a reality-check.

Posted by: officermancuso | October 22, 2008 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Thomas Sowell has had his moments over the years, but he's pretty thin pablum at the moment.

Posted by: officermancuso | October 22, 2008 9:50 PM | Report abuse

"What about the Republican base? Do you think they will support a non-white?"

This is about the stupidest, most stereotypical and uniformed, comment I have heard in days from a liberal.

Republicans, or conservatives at least, don't give a rat's rear end what color a candidate is, as long as they're not a Marxist as Obama is. There is a long list of non-white conservatives.

Michael Steele
Walter Williams
Thomas Sowell
Armstrong Williams
Starr Parker
Condy Rice (Not really conservative)
Larry Elder
J.C. Watts

Just to name a few. As a conservative I would vote for many of them over the current Marxist presidential candidate.

Just say NO to Obamunism.

Posted by: scottm1207 | October 22, 2008 9:41 PM | Report abuse

jwallace1, you raise an interesting question

I have a built-in resentment of people who came here from India rather than fight for social justice in their native land. Plus I'm sore about jobs outsources to there.

I have watched them move into our communities and become good citizens, I have watched their children become model students in their schools, and I have decided that I ought to bite my tongue.

We are all immigrants here, except for native americans. My experience of neighbors from India has been good.

Go figure.

Posted by: officermancuso | October 22, 2008 8:45 PM | Report abuse

What about the Republican base? Do you think they will support a non-white? Is he Hindu?

I would support anyone with brains, I am just throwing this out there, because your typical McCain-Palin supporter does not seem to be in his demographic.

I would, however, support anyone in the Republican party with better ideas.

Posted by: jwallace1 | October 22, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

A Louisiana politician who is not under indictment is indeed a novelty.

Posted by: officermancuso | October 22, 2008 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Jindal is well-placed to be a Republican leader in the future, largely because there are no Republican leaders now. The party would hardly have nominated a 72 year-old, previously-rejected retread if there had been ANYONE else to turn to. Jindal is, in fact, a Republican answer to Barack Obama -- giving the appearance of intellect, a sprayed-on aire of freshness, and a hint of the exotic. The problem is, he has no political theme and is far too close to the waning hard-right of the party. I think he's smart enough to defer a 2012 run (too soon, and who wants to run against an incumbent?) He is prepping for 2016 when he'll be a more acceptable 45 and will have had time to develop some kind of political theme de jour. Believe me, after eight years in the wilderness, Republicans will be happy to have someone who is neither so white nor so old.

Posted by: Stonecreek | October 22, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Chris - any truth to the rumor that when they told Kato Palin about this, she said there must be some mistake, John Kennedy has been dead since 1963?

Posted by: bondjedi | October 22, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Just wait until national press gets a hold of the exorcism Jindal performed (and bragged about) -- it'll make Palin look like Bill Maher in comparison.

Posted by: info42 | October 22, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I doubt this means much in the eyes of the general public. If he cleans up Louisiana, an endorsement won't mean a thing.

As for the party establishment, Jindal is a Sarah Palin, but not an idiot.

Of course, the Republicans have spent the last several months demonizing brown people, so it will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out.

I think Republicans are going to stick with the white male strategy. Those people aren't about to elect a woman or a brown person to anything.

Posted by: DDAWD | October 22, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Jindal is already seeking the nomination as he'll be the keynote at a Christian conservative function in West Des Moines next month. He has a chance because like Chris wrote they need fresh faces. He's perhaps the only one left.
I'm interested to see how he's going to balance running for Governor of Louisiana and President of the United States at the same time. My guess is that he's probably going to have to lie through his teeth to the people of Louisiana.
I made a mistake in saying that we had a set amount of money set aside specifically for the governor's election. This state isn't trending as red as it used to Chris.
Speaking of current office-holders who may not win their re-election fights, Rep. William Jefferson just stepped foot into the LDP headquarters here in Baton Rouge.

Posted by: jdunph1 | October 22, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

You might be able to convince me that Jindal will seek the nomination in 2012, but I doubt he'd get the nod. The GOP is not in the habit of nominating fresh faces - GWB being an exception. They are much more wont to reward someone who's put in their dues - McCain, Dole, GHWB, even Reagan who challenged Ford for nomination in 76. No way do I see them nominating a 41 yr old in his first nationwide exposure. I'd put Romney at the top of the list today. I'm thinking the evangelicals won't be as large a factor, limiting the draw of Palin & Huckabee.

Posted by: bsimon1 | October 22, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

If Jindal thinks he's poweful enough here to help defeat Mary Landrieu he's badly mistaken. The move by the NRSC to come back into Louisiana is reminiscent of last cycle when they poured money into states like Michigan and Maryland in the closing days. If I were Jindal I'd be more concerned about my own re-election before running for President four years out.
His election as governor isn't as impressive as you make it seem considering how better-funded he was than our two candidates along with the overall quality of them. Not to mention that he was running for the seat since he lost the election in 2003. Chances are he wouldn't have won had John Breaux not backed out with a few months to go. We've registered a lot of new Democrats here this year. And we've already raised a large amount of money for the governor's election in three years.
Does this remind anyone else of former Sen. George Allen?

Posted by: jdunph1 | October 22, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Like his views or not, at age 37, Jindal's got scads more experience in elected office than Palin. Education also is much higher. He's going to be around and be a force in the "new" GOP after McCain flops and should be.

If he can "clean up" Louisiana, he can do anything!

Posted by: NotBubba | October 22, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I do think that Jindal will be a very serious candidate for Pres in '12 and unlike Palin - he has a fairly impressive command of the issues. But this isn't much of a power play since he was only elected in 2007 in one of the most Republican states in the country and Kennedy is not expected to do much in this race so even if he goes down in flames, Jindal won't be blamed.

Posted by: stpaulsage | October 22, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

The move is likely lower-risk than The Fix implies. If Kennedy loses, Jindal did what he could to help the party, but couldn't overcome this year's sweeping Dem tide. If Kennedy wins, Jindal might get some credit for helping him close the sale. That sounds like more upside than downside to me. Given the likely need for the GOP to rebuild starting on Nov 5, its a politically savvy move that will position Jindal - either way - to take part in that rebuilding process.

Good, interesting story amongst the slew of poll-tracking reports. Kudos to The Fix for bringing it to our attention.

Posted by: bsimon1 | October 22, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

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