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Thursday, January 5th, 2012

New Orleans, Louisiana


Governor Mitt Romney’s Iowa caucus victory this week drew nothing more than a few yawns down in Louisiana.  For several reasons.  First, presidential politics is not a front burner issue right now. For many Louisianans, there are more important priorities.  LSU is playing for the national championship down in New Orleans, and the Saints are making a viable run toward another Super Bowl.  It’s still duck and deer season, and Mardi Gras is just around the corner. But the main reason that folks in the Bayou State can’t get excited over Romney is because, as far as they know, he has not stepped a foot in the state. Romney seems to be well on his way to winning the Republican presidential nomination, and once again, Louisiana will be left on the side of the road.

Neighboring governor Rick Perry initially looked like “the man” to Louisiana politicos who gave any early attention to the presidential race.   Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal jumped into the Perry campaign with both feet, making a number of stops alongside the Texas governor.  On paper, Perry looked pretty good to a number of Louisiana voters.  The state has become more conservative in recent years, and is a cinch to stay in the republican column.  Perry has been strongly supportive on the oil and gas issues that ring so well in Louisiana, where similar interests are shared.  His positions on social issues make Tea Partiers and evangelicals jump for joy.  But then his “oops” moment came, and he seemed to dig that hole deeper every time he opened his mouth.  As a national candidate, Perry’s toast. He’s crashed and burned, and he’ll soon be out of the race.

Louisiana had a chance to be every bit as relevant in the presidential mix as was Iowa.  It was the only state to have a major statewide election less than two months before the Iowa caucus.  A few creative minds in the state suggested a “beauty contest.”Â  Why not allow any of the presidential candidates to file and put their name on the Louisiana gubernatorial ballot, to give voters a chance to express their initial choice for president?  The vote would be non-binding as far as picking delegates.  But any serious presidential candidate could not afford to ignore the state.  There would have been numerous campaign stops and media buys that would have been a boon to Louisiana.  Perry particularly would have benefited, and Governor Jindal could have scored points for Perry and himself as they traveled the Bayou State campaigning.  But Louisiana has never been on the cutting edge of looking out for itself, and true to form, the idea was ignored by legislators.

Some local political observers are saying that Jindal made a big mistake endorsing Perry, and that he’s hurt his chances for a national political move.  But there just might be a method to Jindal’s perceived madness.  Jindal knew well he was not the strongest candidate for joining the eventual nominee as a vice presidential candidate.  Louisiana brings nothing politically to a national ticket.  It’s not a “swing state” like either Florida or Ohio. And if Jindal’s heritage is a consideration, Hispanics far outweigh Indian Americans.  That’s why we hear names like Sen. Marco Rubio, a Hispanic from Florida, and Governor Bob Portman from Ohio.  Both are fairly new to office, and considered lightweights in the arena of governing, but you’ve got to get elected before you can run the country.  And if Romney does get the nomination, as it seems he will, South Carolina’s popular Governor Nikki Haley would be a possible VP choice.  She’s also an Indian American and she’s endorsed Romney, giving his campaign a big boost for the all important South Carolina republican primary in two weeks. So Jindal is realistically out of the picture as a serious candidate as part of a republican ticket.

Jindal has two future political choices, and his decision will no doubt be made based on who is elected president.  If President Obama is re-elected, then there is a wide open opportunity for a Jindal presidential bid in four years.  The Romneys, Pauls and Gingrichs of this campaign season will be older, and the party will be yearning for younger blood. In four years, Jindal will be winding down his second term as governor as the new campaign season approaches.  The timing could not work better for him.  And that’s where the Perry endorsement brings big dividends.  The big bucks for national office are in Texas.  Perry owes Jindal big-time, and is certain to return the favor by helping to raise big campaign bucks.  So Jindal’s presidential bid, who some in Louisiana feel is his obsession, will receive bountiful benefits from the timing, and Jindal’s ability to “cash in” on all his campaign stops on behalf of number of other republican office holders around the country.

But what happens if Romney defeats Obama, which is certainly a strong possibility?  Jindal won’t just wait around for four years without a base.  We all know how quickly voters forget.  He needs a platform.  And he can gain such by taking on Louisiana incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu, whose term is up for renewal in 2014.  Jindal will still be governor in a strong republican state and will be running against a democrat who has a good bit of baggage.  It’s a lousy time to be a longtime serving incumbent, particularly in a red state when you are a mainstream democrat. Obama care, not returning home all that often, and a poor record of nominating federal judges, just for beginners, will be a few of the many issues that will be thrown back at Landrieu.  When the Republicans smell the blood, Jindal will have the first right of refusal to take on the lady.  So Louisiana voters won’t have to wait long.  Jindal’s future plans will no doubt be decided in the election this November.

Back to Mitt Romney.  He barely won in Iowa, nudging Rick Sanatorium by a mere 8 votes.  As my friend Andy Borowitz observed, the last time so few people decided a Presidential race they were all on the Supreme Court.  But Romney wasn’t supposed to do all that well in Iowa.  He now has solid momentum moving into New Hampshire for next week’s primary where he should win big. And the campaign contributions just keep rolling in at a pace far ahead of the all the other candidates combined. I was in New York several weeks ago where a friend invited me to be his guest at a Romney fundraiser.  The former Massachusetts governor raised $10.5 million at that event, and this was just one of a series of such events Romney had scheduled on that day alone.

So we’re talking about a barn burner of a presidential race, a Louisiana governor anxious to move on to what he perceives to be bigger and better offices, and possible BCS and Super Bowl championships.  Add to this gumbo a hint of “throw me somethin’ mister,” soon to be in the air and you have to ask — Is 2012 going to be a great year or what?


“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.”Â  ~Clarence Darrow

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the South and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his 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.




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