08. Bobby Jindal


Chris and Jeb

When it comes to presidential candidates, I always tend to favor those who have experience as a governor first. Why? Because although the office of president is much, much larger in scale, a sitting state governor’s responsibilities as the chief executive of a state is the closest one can get in terms of fitting into the office of the US President.

Bobby JindalA Senator or Rep. can resist all compromise if they choose, push for measures that have no chance of passing, and generally still be considered effective. A governor cannot afford that luxury and remain in office. A governor has to lead, and do so in a manner that produces consensus. It’s not so much about compromise per se as it is about learning statesmanship.

On that basis, Bobby Jindal reaches into the Top 10, coming in at the number eight spot in my personal book. His record as governor is surprisingly good, considering the struggles the state of Louisiana has endured in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath of which was still in effect when he won his 2007 election to his first term as governor.

In 2008, only about a year into his tenure, his response to Hurricane Gustav was widely praised on both sides of the political aisle as being much more effective than the 2005 Katrina response. The plus side of Jindal is that he has governed as a reliable, Reagan-style conservative, something the GOP is in sore need of.

On the negative side is Jindal’s inability, to date, to connect with a national audience. His response to President Obama’s national address to a joint session of Congress in 2009, he was widely perceived to have botched the job.

Yet that is all “inside baseball” a Beltway concern. If his record so far in Louisiana means anything, and it ought to, he is far more reliable as a defender of conservatism than Jeb Bush or Chris Christie … by far.

As a contrast to Sarah Palin, who possesses similar conservative credentials, Jindal is fulfilling his commitments. He declined a possible 2012 run against Obama, despite pressure from the party’s conservative elements to run. He was rewarded with a landslide 2011 re-election. His term ends in 2015, so he’d be free to run for the GOP top spot in 2016. The real question is if he could attract enough interest.

While he has great credentials, his communication skills on the national stage and in question and whether he could survive a debate against more-seasoned opponents both inside the GOP and out, is also open to question. But Jindal is only 44 in 2015, which means he’d be 45 in 2016. This coming election cycle is by far not his only shot; he might make a savvy choice as a fallback running mate, if the party’s nominee fails to connect with a more obvious choice like Marco Rubio.

But Jindal can afford to wait for his hour to come ’round for the White House. As one of the fresh, young faces of the GOP, he could be better off adding a US Senate run to his resume, if one of the seats becomes open. That could happen. Louisiana’s new senior senator, David Vitter, is considering a run to replace Jindal in 2015, leaving Jindal the obvious favorite to replace him in the Senate should Jindal decide to bypass a 2016 White House run.

And who knows? That might be the best way to go for Jindal. He could expand his Washington resume, and be far more prepared for a White House bid in the 2020s. He might need that sort of experience to fulfill the promise his values and voting record demonstrate he is capable of achieving.

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