We went to last night’s New York Republican state dinner and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal gave a big, slashing keynote speech at it. He really looked liked he wanted to be Romney’s running mate.
In some ways the event looked like a passing of the torch, from Newt Gingrich — an also-ran in the 2012 campaign — to Jindal, the young, rising star.
Gingrich went well beyond the usual praise for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He sounded the presidential horns for a potential vice presidential nominee.
“He will eventually be a great leader for the entire country,” Gingrich said.
Bobby Jindal has experienced his ups and downs as the Republican Party’s rising star. His cut-taxes-and-spending approach and willingness to tackle education head-on as Louisiana governor has drawn him rave reviews within party circles.
At the same time, there have been hiccups. In 2009, his first foray into the mainstream American audience came when Republicans thrust him onto centre stage to give the official response to President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union Address. By almost every account from both sides, it was a disaster.
“The speech read a lot better than it sounded,” Fox News anchor Brit Hume said famously afterward. “This was not Bobby Jindal’s greatest oratorical moment.” It’s still the first autocomplete result that comes up when you search “Bobby Jindal…” on YouTube.
The speech he gave Thursday night — the keynote of the Republican state dinner — had a different tone. As Jindal becomes one name in a flurry of speculation for Mitt Romney’s running mate, Jindal sounded like he was auditioning.
Through and through, his speech served as a missile to Obama and his policies. He engaged the crowd, blasting and even mocking Obama.
“I really only have two complaints about this president,” Jindal said. “No. 1 is that he is the most liberal ideological president since President Jimmy Carter to occupy the White House. My second complaint about this president is that he is the most incompetent president to occupy the White House since President Jimmy Carter.”
Cue the applause.
When asked after the speech by one reporter, Jindal brushed off VP speculation. But that has not stopped his name from popping up along with a jammed field — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley are just some of the bigger names.
But is Jindal a legitimate front-runner? One Louisiana political scientist doesn’t think he’s a safe pick.
UPDATE, 5:01 p.m.: A Jindal spokesman emails and notes that the political scientist quoted has donated to the Obama campaign in the past. According to The Huffington Post’s Fundrace, Philip Dynia has donated $15 to the 2012 Obama campaign and $205 in the 2008 campaign.
“He would be Mitt Romney’s Sarah Palin,” said Philip Dynia, an associate political science professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.
Dynia saw some positives in Romney picking Jindal. His Indian-American heritage and his youth would attract some voters from that demographic. But ultimately, Jindal is a pick that is a little too far to the right. Hence the comparisons to the choice of Palin that proved divisive in John McCain’s 2008 campaign.
“If he’s going to shake his Etch-a-Sketch and Bobby Jindal comes up,” Dynia said, “something’s wrong there.” A safer pick would be someone like Portman, Daniels, Ryan or Rubio.
Still, if his speech was any indication, Jindal is ready to hit Obama on issues where he has experience. Most prominent Thursday night was energy policy. Jindal outlined a six-step plan for energy reform, lambasting Obama along the way.
He mocked Obama, offering “defenses” for him (read: they weren’t really defenses). For example, Jindal said Obama is not incompetent on energy policy. He just has a “radical environmental ideology.”
“I’d go back to Harvard and demand a refund for any economics courses he took,” Jindal cracked.
His crowd on Thursday night politely chuckled.
But this also presents the major stumbling block for Jindal as a potential running mate. How will he connect with mainstream crowds? The mainstream that sees him most in his “not greatest oratorical moment.”
“That rebuttal speech will be played over and over and over and over,” Dynia said.
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