November 4, 2008.
A great day for President-elect Barack Obama. An important day for presidential candidate-to-be Bobby Jindal.
It is part of the political circle of life that the road to the White House for Louisiana’s ambitious governor began with the demise of John McCain’s presidential dream.
Had McCain won, Jindal would have been relegated to hoping to be tapped as the running mate by Vice-President Sarah Palin in 2012. Sitting vice-presidents might not be invulnerable in general elections, but they are unstoppable in the primaries.
Had the Nixon Administration not suffered a fatal meltdown and if Spiro Agnew had kept his nose clean, not even Ronald Reagan could have prevented Agnew’s nomination in 1976.
The GOP ticket’s landslide defeat does not necessarily mean Palin would be a pushover in 2012. The rough treatment she received from the media made her a martyr in the eyes of stalwarts and her folksy, red meat rhetoric played strong with the base.
Palin proved throughout the general election campaign she could draw crowds and should be credited with that creating that brief sliver of hope the GOP had between the convention and the economic crisis. Now freed from the claustrophobic confines of her Bush-McCain handlers, Palin can spend the next three years appearing at Republican fundraisers and collecting IOUs.
Though Palin and Obama are very different people, both recognize the importance of striking while the iron is hot. Obama parlayed the fame he garnered delivering a single nationally-televised convention speech and an easy Senate victory over a carpetbagger quack GOP candidate into becoming the 44th President of the United States.
The fiercely competitive “Sarah Barracuda” is also aware of her window and should be considered not only a likely candidate for 2012 but also the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
Thanks to props from conservative icon Rush Limbaugh and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, there is already a Jindal buzz amongst the party faithful. While campaigning for McCain in Virginia last weekend, a resident of the Old Dominion state expressed his hope that Jindal would run for the presidency in four years.
The first decision Jindal must make is whether to seek re-election in 2011.
Since Louisiana elects its state officials on the odd-numbered year prior to a presidential election, Jindal would be hard pressed to wage a gubernatorial campaign during the opening stages of the primaries.
Furthermore, by running for re-election, Jindal would be inviting the concentrated fire of a national Democratic operation that understands the importance of mowing down the other side’s farm team. If you don’t believe me, just ask FORMER US Senator George Allen, who got strangled in his own safety net.
If Jindal opts to bide his time and wait to receive an almost certain invitation to join the 2012 Republican’s ticket, he would still find himself in the same spot then-Texas Governor George W. Bush was in 1998: having to win re-election while also carrying a GOP lieutenant governor and successor over the finish line to prevent a change of party control in his state office as he ascended to the federal level.
Jindal’s endorsement of John Kennedy for US Senator had more value to Jindal himself than Kennedy in the long run. GOP activists tend to hold grudges against candidates who don’t seem Republican enough (see Mitt Romney) and Jindal would have major credibility problems with the party faithful had he not gone up to bat for the state GOP’s congressional candidates. There could not be a repeat of Jindal’s abstinence in the 2007 state legislative runoffs in 2008.
Finally, Jindal needs to be wary of employing absolute statements. The payraise fiasco, though in the end got pinned on Republican legislators, will almost certainly come back to haunt him in the Iowa cornfields.
The governor has already renounced a presidential run in 2012, claiming he has the job he wants and would rather go into the private sector than seek higher office.
Jindal would have better luck getting people to take a two dollar bet that he knows where they got their shoes at.
Rather than adopting yet another untenable extreme posture, Jindal should simply refuse to comment on any political plans not related to his intended run for re-election until after the next federal election, which isn’t until 2010.
In the meantime, he should continue to happily accept his newfound status as an up and coming leader in the GOP by assuming the responsibilities that come with being a star, thus justifying his bid to keep up with Palin in terms of chit collecting.
No matter what Jindal does or intends to do in politics from here on out, he is a marked man. The media, Republican activists and Democratic attack dogs will watch his every move, from the bills he signs (or does not sign) to how many days he spends away from Louisiana (and thus the job he currently holds). The governor will have to accept that November 4, 2008 is the first day of the rest of his political life whether he likes it or not.
Mike Bayham is a political consultant in south Louisiana and can be reached at MikeBayham@yahoo.com.