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Crowded for Jindal on the national scene!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Orleans, Louisiana




Last year, before the President’s State of the Union address, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was the fair haired boy of the national Republican Party.  He had even been considered as a vice presidential candidate on the McCain ticket in 2008, and every pundit had him high up on the list of contenders for 2012. But like the old saying goes, “the south shall rise again.”Â  Potential candidates for a Republican national ticket are emerging from all over the South.  And while Jindal has to tend the home state brush fires with a huge budget crisis and a reelection ahead, a number of southern candidates are free to raise money and head for Iowa.

This, of course, presupposes that Jindal has any interest in being on a national ticket. He professes only a desire to be reelected so that he can have the honor and thrill of facing one budget crisis after another.

And who can doubt his word as he has, for months, been crisscrossing America raising  campaign funds for a number of candidates in other states, raising money for his own purposes, and now conducting a national book tour, for no other reason than to run for re election in Louisiana. He’s sure convinced me.

Twelve months ago, he was the only candidate being talked about in the south, but what a difference a year makes. It seems that every week a new candidate comes out of the deep southern framework.  Two old perennials are trying to keep there hopes alive.  Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee brought his conservative message that mirrors Jindal’s to Baton Rouge a few weeks ago.  He’s raised money and is creating a Louisiana organization for his national campaign.

Former House speaker and Georgia native Newt Gingrich is also on the move with a new book about to come out.  He was asked on Meet the Press this past Sunday if he is running.  “I think Callista and I’ll make a decision probably in February; and probably, if we do run, we’ll announce, I suspect, in late March. But we’re still months away from that.” Coy yes, but he is definitely in the mix.

Then there are all the new guys on the national scene. Florida’s new senator, Marco Rubio, arrived in Washington this week and was received like a rock star.  Rubio is Hispanic with a compelling story of his parents emigrating from Cuba.  He and Jindal are both the same age. He is being tagged as “the Great Right Hope” and “the Republican Obama.”Â  In the past few weeks alone, Rubio has graced the covers of National Review, The Weekly Standard, Time and The New York Times Magazine.  South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, an early ally of Rubio, has predicted that he will be president within the next five years, and Rubio’s Wikipedia page already has a “Presidential Election 2012″ section.

Jindal is also no longer the only Indian American in the mix. New South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is both female and the second Indian American to became a state’s chief executive. .  Like Jindal, Haley’s parents moved to the U.S. back in the 1960s.  She is younger than Jindal at 38, had has invited a large contingent of Indians from her home town of Punjab to attend her swearing in ceremony.  Haley has also promised to make an early trade mission trip to India, something that Jindal has not yet done.

Jindal is surrounded on both sides of Louisiana by formidable state governors who are giving the 2012 presidential election a close look. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Texas Governor Rick Perry both are expressing serious interest in making a run, or at least in stirring the pot enough to be considered for the second spot on a Republican ticket.

Barbour is a two term governor who presently serves as chairman of the National Governor’s Association.  He is also past chairman of the National Republican Committee, where he raised millions for candidates all across the country.  As one Republican insider told me, “Haley has more IOUs than any potential Republican looking at the race. He will be a formidable candidate if he runs.”

And then there is bigger than life Texas Governor, Rick Perry. He cruised to an easy reelection victory early this month, and he’s immediately begun hawking his new book, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.” The Perry book, like Jindal’s, is all about burnishing his image to ascend the national stage.  Not to give Jindal any leeway, Perry is heading toward the national media circuit next week with appearances on Fox News, The Today Show, and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Perry is the state’s longest serving governor, and has a major base of funding for a national campaign right out of Texas. He peddled a “Morning in Texas” message in his appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

So it’s obvious that Republican candidates, particularly in the south, are crawling out of the woodwork and are more prolific than at any time in recent memory.  And Jindal faces a special problem of governing a state that ranks dead last or near the bottom in numerous national rankings. What does he do?  Continue to travel the country and rely on his staff to address a growing budget crisis back home? Or get back to Louisiana, and take a more aggressive hands on approach to what will require major crisis management?

So far, Jindal has not sought out help in addressing Louisiana’s growing budget problems from anyone beyond his staff.  The good government groups, outside think tanks and many public officials have been left out of Jindal’s quest to balance the state budget. For example, the state treasurer, who is putting forth a number of cost saving ideas has not talked to the Governor in over 18 months.  Jindal would be wise to reconsider his arms length approach and make it a “big tent” effort.  When you are the governor, you get and can take all the credit. So why not seek out all the help you can get? For if Jindal fails to adequately face and solve the present budget mess, the blame falls entirely on him.

Timing is often everything in politics.  Jindal does not have the luxury of merely making campaign promises like many other of the national party candidates can.  In Louisiana, he is going to have to produce, or see his national aspirations fall by the wayside.  It’s a huge uphill fight for him.  But isn’t that what real leadership is all about?


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Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South.  You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com. The show is televised at http://www.justin.tv/jimbrownusa.

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