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Experts Skeptical Over Bobby Jindal for Veep Buzz

India West, News Report, Ashfaque Swapan Posted: May 30, 2008

While many of his Indian Americans supporters especially Republicans are thrilled about the speculation surrounding Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal being asked to be the running mate of presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, D-Ariz., veteran observers of American politics told India-West there was virtually no chance of that happening, even while they added that he probably had a bright political future.

"I think it is extremely, extremely unlikely," Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the Washington, D.C.-based Cook Political Report, told India-West. "Bobby is obviously one of the fastest, highest rising stars of the party, and I wouldn't be surprised if he did end up being the vice president or president some day. But somebody who has only been in statewide elected office for four months is not going to be seriously considered to be a running mate."

He added that leaving office so soon after getting elected wouldn't go down well. "The thing is, Bobby has got through an ethics package in the legislature and they are just now starting to deal with substantive issues," said Cook. "He would be seen as abandoning a job before he even really got started. And careerwise, you can't do that36 is awfully, awfully young, he has hardly gotten underway in his new job that he just got elected to. I don't think he is going to get picked. And that's not a reflection on him as much as it's too soon for him.

"2012, 2016, 2020 there's lot's of time for Bobby to be on a ticket or to run for president. And I think he will, some day."

That hasn't stopped some Indian American Republicans from cheering. "I am very excited at the opportunity of Bobby serving at the higher level as a vice presidential candidate and hopefully as a vice president," Republican activist Niraj Baxi, a former president of the National Federation of Indian American Associations, told India-West. "This is a great thrill."

Baxi was all praise for Jindal, whom he has met several times. "He is articulate, he is young, he is very much aware of his roots. He is sincere, dedicated, forthright," he added. "Can you imagine? I can tell you that this is an incredible rise, and I have watched him for, I think, the last 15 odd years. We are all very proud that an Indian American is doing as well."

Democratic activist Rajen Anand, also a former NFIA president, shared Baxi's pride, but expressed skepticism about Jindal's chances.

"I personally don't think he will be picked up. I could be surprised," Anand told India-West. "He will probably get the same criticism that Obama has been getting that he is not experienced, he hasn't even completed a first term as governor. But it will be very nice for Indian Americans if he becomes a vice president. It will be really a milestone for the Indian American community, although I do not agree with his philosophy at all, I would not vote for him."

Again, Anand stressed that he liked Jindal personally. "I've met him in Washington many times, I get along very well with him. He is a very intelligent person, and he is smart, he is charismatic, he is very up to date, very knowledgeable about the issues, and he has a good sense of what is right and what is wrong," he said. "So he is a good man, no doubt about it. I just don't like his stand on issues."

Jindal's name began to draw a buzz after conservative column William Kristol wrote a column in the New York Times newspaper backing him for the Republican vice presidential nomination. Since then popular conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has called him the next Ronald Reagan, and the conservative Washington Times newspaper has enthusiastically backed Jindal. The speculation reached its height when Jindal was invited, along with several others, to visit McCain in Arizona over the Memorial Day weekend.

Cook dismisses conservative support for Jindal. "To be honest, I don't know what these people are thinking when they are suggesting him for this time," he told India-West with a chuckle. "I could tell you that if a Democrat had only been in office for four months and he was mentioned as a running mate, they would be savaging him."

In Louisiana, in the first few months, Jindal has already begun to make a mark, Jeffrey S. Sadow, an associate professor at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, La., and a keen observer of Louisiana politics, told India-West.

"I think he has done pretty well. When he campaigned, he promised certain things, the most important of which was to reform the ethics code in the state, make it much stronger than it used to be," Sadow said. "He called a special session of legislature, and basically that's what was done.

"Bobby wasn't quite what everybody wanted, it's not perfect, but certainly a vast improvement over what had been. So he delivered on that particular campaign promise in spectacular fashion and he has been trying to do some other things."

A poll a couple of months ago gave him a whopping 77 percent approval rating, "which is phenomenally high," he added.

Jindal has come through in other ways, too, Sadow said. The way the financial situation in the state works is that the state tries to forecast how much money is coming in and if there is a surplus, the state can spend it on certain things.

"That's what happened," Sadow said. "A surplus was declared and he called another special session which then spent about a billion dollars worth of surplus money on items that were again largely well received. The things he tried to spend it on were the things that during the campaign he talked about."

About the only hiccup has been his misreading of the political terrain and some waffling on the backing of a bill to cut individual taxes, but despite that, he still commands the support of a majority, Sadow said.

That said, Sadow is very skeptical about Jindal actually being invited to the presidential ticket as a running mate. He agrees that Jindal brings youth, and a blend of true conservative credentials combined with almost a policy wonk's command of issues that could prove attractive, but he doubts that will be enough.

"There are other ways in which he really doesn't bring something to the ticket or in one way, might detract from it. One of McCain's tactics during the campaign is going to be to point to Obama and say, 'Well he's only been in national government for four years, he is not ready for prime time.' If he has Jindal as a running mate it could be turned around on that," explained Sadow.

"This is going to be a close presidential content, and every presidential vote is going to count. And quite frankly, if McCain were to take somebody like (Gov. Tim) Pawlenty from Minnesota (or Florida Gov. Charlie Crist), that will almost certainly guarantee that those states will stay in the Republican column.

"Louisiana is a given. Other conservatives. . . bring extra electoral college bonus, and I think in the long run McCain is going to pick somebody else for that reason alone."

That is not to say Jindal doesn't have a bright future.

"No question he is a rising star, one of the fastest rising in the party," said Cook. "I don't know anybody who thinks that he is a serious contender this time, and I don't know anyone who doesn't think he will be a serious contender in the future."

Cook said there is a five percent chance of Jindal getting the vice presidential nomination this time around, but a 60 percent chance that he will do so in the future.

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