I was, I admit, a little confused when John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his veep nominee over newly-minted Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Jindal is a similarly up-from-the-bootstraps story, a second-generation Indian immigrant, with much better intellectual credibility than I thought Palin had – an opinion that, at the end of the day, seemed pretty vindicated by Palin’s cringeworthy interview performances.
While the official reason that Jindal took his name out of contention was his lack of a desire to leave the Louisiana governorship, there was also real trepidation within his political inner circle that Jindal might wind up as the pick — McCain was attracted to his comprehensive health-care knowledge — and be caught up in what they believed to be a less-than-stellar campaign that could pin a loss on Jindal without much ability to change or control the direction of the contest.
Yglesias thinks that overarching economic concerns are going to cripple the chances of any governors hoping to run in ’12 or ’16:
Either way, I’m actually a bit skeptical of Jindal’s 2016 prospects. Discussion of this tends to begin and end with talking about whether the GOP is really ready for a non-white standard-bearer. I think a bigger issue may be that the next few years aren’t shaping up to be an especially promising time to be a governor.
I’m pretty skeptical of Yglesias’ concerns, which are mostly that governors aren’t going to be able to cut taxes and spend wildly in the next few years, unlike during the go-go 90’s, but I think that takes a really short view of what makes governors appealing. In most ways, the race for the Presidency comes down to some really ineffable factors, and overwheming emotions like fear, anger, hope, and the like.
Anyone who has seen Jindal speak knows that he is quick, smart, and eloquent. I’ve heard him on a few of the Sunday morning shows, and he is completely reasonable, speaks in thoughtful, complete, mostly-bullshit-free sentences. And during the coverage of Hurricane Ike during the start of the Republican National Convention, he carried himself with confidence, answering questions thoroughly and with ease, but he also showed tons of compassion for the people affected by the disaster.
So, mostly, I guess I agree with Douthat and the Post article, which is that it was absolutely the smart political play for him to stay away from the Presidential campaign this year. Hard to say what the political landscape will be in 4 or 8 years, but knowing a loser when you see one is a very important basic political skill.
As for whether I’m really worried about Jindal, I think that’s more of a question about the overall direction of the Republican party, which is definitely a question for another post.