Thursday, July 2, 2009
Linville, North Carolina
IS BOBBY JINDAL OUT OF THE
NATIONAL POLITICAL PICTURE?
By Jim Brown
That’s the question posed to me by a group of political consultants meeting in Charlotte this week as they tried to ferret out what Republican is a viable contender for the 2012 presidential nomination. The group felt that under normal circumstances, a presidential effort by current Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would have been permanently sidelined by what they perceived to be a childish and weak televised response to Pres. Obama’s address to the nation in February.
But that was then. In the past month, the Republican presidential herd has been thinning fast. First there was Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman who had recently set up a presidential campaign fund. But he surprised a number of fellow Republicans by accepting the President’s offer to make him Ambassador to China.
Then the sexual escapades blew up in national news reports in a double whammy that took out of contention, first Nevada Sen. John Ensign, followed by the bizarre revelations of extramarital activity by Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.
Sanford had made the Louisiana Governor look like a piker when it came to turning down the millions of dollars on the table in stimulus money authorized by Congress. He admonished the President by postulating: “Since we’re issuing debt to solve a problem that was created by too much debt; since that’s taking place, and since those costs will be borne by the next generation, in fact it is sort of physical child abuse to do what we’re doing.” Sanford made it clear that there should be no spending government money in any unwarranted and inappropriate manner. You can imagine the surprise to hear how the South Carolina Governor spent almost $10,000 of taxpayers’ money to visit his Argentine girlfriend.
By the way, one of the hottest bumper stickers floating around says: “Sanford/Ensign in 2012.”
“I still believe our Republican nominee will be a governor,” said Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association. He also added the nomination could very well go to someone with little name recognition. “When George W. Bush got reelected in 2004, Barack Obama was a state legislator,” Ayers said.
Jindal’s stumblings have given an opening to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour who appeared last week in New Hampshire for a party fundraiser. He also took over as chairman of the Republican Governors Association last week after Sanford step down, and he is off to Iowa next week where the first presidential primary caucuses take place.
Of course any Republican list right now includes Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. But her family dramas continue to play like a long-running soap opera, and can she ever get beyond her Tina Fey tag that “I can see Russia from my house?” Last week, a Fox news poll indicated that a majority of Republicans say former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani would likely be the top contender; followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Palin comes in a distant fourth and Jindal is not even on the radar.
With so many of the higher profile governors either being labeled as has beens from the last campaign, or like Jindal have let a golden opportunity go by, lesser-known governors are beginning to test the national political waters. Those in the minor league hoping to ascend to the top-tier include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. The Hoosier state chief executive gained national public praise for his commencement speech at Butler University recently where he blasted baby boomers as self-indulgent. He recently won a second term overwhelmingly in a state carried by the President during last year’s election.
My group in Charlotte all agreed that the Republican Party’s number one objective would be to find a candidate who can address public perceptions that the GOP is both intolerant and irrelevant, not to mention being scandalized by politicians who preach family values while getting caught up in extra marital affairs.
So who is there to lead the charge? And is there any way that Bobby Jindal can resurrect his national image and be considered a relevant contender for the 2012 presidential nomination? He did not seem to help his cause in the just completed annual session of the Louisiana Legislature. Newspapers throughout the state by and large have panned any significant accomplishments, and criticized Jindal for his failure to offer strong leadership and specific proposals.
The New Orleans Times Picayune headlined: “Legislative Session a missed Opportunity.” The Lafayette advertiser bluntly stated that “Leadership missing this Session.” And the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate concluded that “Jindal and legislature took steps backward.” The Jindal team strategy was based on either cutting or holding the line on state spending. There were few specifics given to legislators that would define the Jindal scenario of a state government reorganization plan or any long-range goals for the state’s future.
If the group were called on to offer some specific advice to Bobby Jindal on how he can reclaim a top-tier spot as a major presidential contender, what would they suggest? Surprisingly, they offered a number of ideas. In their opinion, Jindal has let some golden opportunities pass both him and the state by.
The list is long. Oh, I’ll have it for you. But with space running out, keep a lookout for next week’s column. Here’s the challenge for Bobby Jindal. Is there still national political life after being compared to Mister Rogers?
“Being compared to Mister Rogers is better than some of the other comparisons we’ve had here in the past.”
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears weekly in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the south. You can read all his back columns by going to www.jimbrownla,.com. You will also see a number of relevant videos and current updates on this website.