April 7, 2009

Assessing GOP 2012 - Jindal

In the continuing series of high level assessments of 2012 GOP possible candidates, let's take a look at Bobby Jindal. Boby Jindal currently serves as the Governor of Louisiana. He was rumored to be shortlisted for the McCain VP slot in 2008 and is rumored to be a top contender for the GOP 2012 nomination.

[Others assessed: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee , Mark Sanford, Mitt Romney]

Experience: In October 2007, Bobby Jindal was elected Governor of Louisiana. At 36 years of age, he became the youngest sitting Governor in America, and the first Indian-American Governor in history. Previously, in 2003 he had run for Governor and though he led after the general election, he lost in the runoff election.

Prior to becoming Governor 2007, he was elected as a Congressman in 2004 and re-elected in 2006 before running for Governor. Bobby Jindal is young and has a short track record on executive experience. In total he has been a political representative since 2004 and had executive experience for less than two years at this point. Working in Jindal's favor though, are two points. Firstly, that by 2011, when the GOP nomination process starts to kick in, his experience will have 3 more years added to it. Instead of two years of executive experience he will be able to boast 5 years. Secondly, the current sitting President was able to count community service as experience and had a far shorter resume than Jindal has and will have by 2012.

Grade: D-. While Jindal's thinner experience may help him against Obama in 2012 since he'll have a stronger relative starting point by then, he will be running in the primaries against entrants with much longer resumes and more experience to their credit.

Likability/Electability: Jindal has a likability factor about him. Some of his youthful energy inspires it, and the fact that he's atypical of Washington (both in terms of ethnicity and in terms of route to the top) can only help with those who like an underdog and with those who view the Republicans as the party of old white men (which it is, along with being the party of everybody else except those who are voting illegally). But Jindal's tepid speech in response to pointed out a weakness for Jindal: his very favorable and slightly favorable ratings added up to only 15% nationally - something the left was all to eager to pounce upon. Is it a net negative to have such low positives? Not necessarily but Jindal does have his work cut out for him, since nearly 60% viewed him as an unknown commodity.

That means that Jindal is still a fairly blank slate nationally. Given the state of the depth of knowledge of much of the electorate, I (hesitantly) actually view that as a positive. Jindal is an unknown in the way President Obama is still to many, a virtual unknown and more an emotional feeling than an ideological compatriot. Jindal can leverage that to build some strong positives for himself over the next 3 years. The negative side is that with the thin resume, the left is going to latch onto whatever it can scare the nation if Jindal is the nominee. One area I'd expect them to assault is his stance on Intelligent Design. While that may help him in the primaries, it may hinder him versus Obama in an increasingly secular nation. Then again, maybe not - America is still a Christian-dominated nation and Jindal's conversion to Catholicism may be a boon to him too.

Meanwhile his state popularity is pretty high, which bodes somewhat well for Jindal in a national light. Add to that that Jindal may leverage his popularity in Louisiana just as he says he will - to run for re-election in that state in 2011, making a 2012 run for him difficult as he will be entering the game a little late and at a disadvantage. And last but not least, his favorable ratings among conservatives seems pretty solid.

Grade: B- (that 2012 may be too early for Jindal is important, as is his current lack of name recognition nationally).

Foreign Affairs: One superficial advantage Bobby Jindal has in this area with the American public is his ethnicity. He can certainly claim a more cosmopolitan background than other GOP potential nominees and he can go toe-to-toe with Obama on that score. But foreign affairs is much more than the superficial as conservatives know and President Obama, may yet discover.

He has a common sense approach to a few foreign policy issues that he has had the opportunity to vote on while he was in Congress. Specifically, he voted in favor of deterring foreign arms transfers to China, and in favor of restricting UN funding in order to get that institution to implement reforms.

Much like some of the other GOP hopefuls, Jindal has a limited exposure to much of the foreign affairs environment. Conservatives have argued that the Oval Office is not the place for on the job training. While that is true, apparently from a voter perspective that no longer matters. Witness President Obama. So while his understanding of core principles will guide him, his lack of experience may not be as much a hindrance as it would be for say Governor Palin. Here his low profile may give him room to grow into a foreign policy position that Americans will feel comfortable with, as opposed to Palin, whom has already been tainted by Democratic ridicule.

Grade: C- (based strictly on his ability to be hawkish on national security and the ability to guide his own blank slate in a policy direction of conservative leaning).

Economy: Bobby Jindal very visually refused to accept stimulus money from the federal bailout stimulus and voted to make the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts permanent. He voted NO on restricting employer interference in union organizing. Those are solid points in Jindal's favor.

Conversely he voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and voted in favor of increasing the minimum wage. The Club for Growth scired Congressman Jindal a 55% in both 2006 and 2007. Hardly a ringing endorsement. But counterbalancing that, the progressive group Citizens for Tax Justice gave Jindal a rating of 0% for his support on progressive taxation. That's a plus.

However like other candidates, there's some gaps to be filled in and for Jindal this is one area like that. He apparently has no noticeable position on fixing social security.

Grade: C+

Military: Bobby Jindal voted in favor of allowing the military to continue recruiting on college campuses., and voted against redeployment of troops out of Iraq. There is not a long track record to indicate that Bobby Jindal is either a hawk or a dove when it comes to the military. There have been reports of friction between Jindal and some former Generals;

BATON ROUGE -- The Louisiana National Guard is suffering from low morale, leadership problems and nepotism, according to a group of retired generals appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal to review the military department's operations.

The governor's office, however, has dismissed some of the suggestions made by the generals and has refused to release the report, citing executive privilege.

The disagreement between the administration and the panel of generals erupted last week when Jindal reappointed Maj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau as the state's adjutant general without reviewing the report by the governor's Recommendation Committee for the Adjunct General of the Army National Guard, a position that oversees the Louisiana National Guard.

The generals on the panel said they were "flabbergasted and insulted" after Jindal ignored their input, according to a letter sent Friday to the governor's office by former Louisiana Adjutant Gen. Ansel "Buddy" Stroud, the panel's chairman.

Perhaps a trouble spot for the Governor with conservatives, but the details behind this may be political in nature.

Grade: C- (Jindal's first incomplete).

National / Border Security: Bobby Jindal again has displayed a common sense approach to security. The issue though, when he talks about freedom to unleash American ingenuity contrasts for some with the freedoms he seeks to curb with respect to national security. For example, he favors allowing warrantless electronic surveillance. While the reality is that this is a common sense approach, it does create a hypothetical opening for abuse, and an opening for those who argue that the GOP is anti-freedom. Quite the conundrum, not just for Jindal but for national security conservatives.

In the more cut-and-dried department, Jindal is in favor of building a border security fence on the Mexican border and scored high grades from NumbersUSA's ratings on him (overall, an A-, and an A+ on border control and an A on interior enforcement).

Grade: A-.

Social Issues: In addition to some previously mentioned elements, Jindal is pro-life, and supports the one man - one woman definition of marriage, he supports capital punishment and has a hard anti-drug stance. He also is in favor of better education and stronger discipline in schools;

About 70 people gathered at the courthouse annex in New Roads, the center of parish government, and listened as Jindal, a Republican, emphasized his commitment to improving education.In recent months, education has been a hot topic as the parish grapples with a lack of certified teachers, desegregation of its two public high schools, and tackling high drop-out rates.

Before the meeting, Merilynn Hammonds said she hoped Jindal would weigh in on the parish’s low academic test scores.While Jindal did not speak about test scores specifically, he said a new Louisiana means allocating more money for education.

Throughout the meeting, Jindal stuck to a similar script from previous town hall meetings, echoing much of what he said during a Dec. 1 stop in St. James Parish.

In both meetings, Jindal emphasized his vision of “putting a great teacher in every classroom.”“We lose 50 percent of our teachers five years after they graduate (from college),” he said.

Teachers leave the state for higher paying jobs, but the primary reason they leave, Jindal said, is the lack of discipline in the classroom.

On the Second Amendment he voted YES on prohibiting product misuse lawsuits on gun manufacturers and voted to ban gun registration & trigger lock laws in Washington D.C.

Grade: B

Conservatism: While the Republican response by Governor Jindal to Obama's was widely panned, and it was indeed dull, the principles he discusses, the points he make, show a clear delineation between liberal and conservative thinking.

Sorry for the Olbermann ending

He touches on small government, individual freedom, lower taxes, wasteful spending, energy independence, innovative spirit.

He talks about universal Health Care, but outside of government. He talks about education and charter schools, real transparency in government and national defence and the military. All in the right way.

Grade: A-. He says all the right things, albeit in a bland way.

Overall: Bobby Jindal had a rising star in the important GOP inner circles, but may have caused a temporary set-back with his tepid and unexciting response to President Obama's speech several weeks back. Imagine the buzz if he had scored a big hit with the speech? Nevertheless that's an early and forgettable event. Jindal's real problem is his thin tenure and his need to fill in some unknowns about himself with conservative voters, and to garner some name recognition nationally in 2009. If he waits too long beyond that he won't have enough of a brand recognition to share with the electorate later on. Jindal has risen quickly and may be able to leverage his tabula rasa positively, or it could come back to haunt him if he allows others to fill up that page for him. He must define himself and quickly rather than allowing others to do it for him. That would include setting an expectation (unofficially) on whether he intends to run in 2012.

Grade: B-, with the ability to float quickly to an A by 2012 or sink to an F. Jindal's prospects are still more than a bit of a wild card at this point.

1 comment:

  1. I voted for Ron Paul last year, and agreed with about 95% of his positions. The other 5% made me think he was a little paranoid whackjob. I love Bobby Jindal because he shares a lot of Ron Paul's policies, minus the paranoid conspiracy theorist aspect and also missing Ron Paul's strange personal appearance and relative lack of charm. I'd agree he could do very well or very badly.


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