Gov. Bobby Jindal has gone on an endorsement binge, including a pick outside the fall state elections, all of which tells us about his future plans.
In state, Jindal followed a pattern of picking mostly Republicans when facing off against Democrats, seldom voicing a preference where two of the same party compete. The latter follows the tried-and-true strategy of not wishing to alienate a potential ally by picking the opponent of the winner when the differences between the two are not stark – about which Jindal has perhaps learned the hard way.
Thus, the differences are instructive.
For example, in District One of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education he picked incumbent James Garvey over a newcomer Republican, given Garvey’s record of voting along Jindal’s preferences. And in District Three, he backed (not surprisingly) Democrat Glenny Lee Buquet over a Republican for the same reason. The only statewide contest where he picked a preference between Republicans was tabbing the recent Democrat Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell over former Rep, Anh “Joseph” Cao, potentially as a reward for Caldwell’s switch and other actions that have aligned with Jindal’s agenda, such as joining in the suit challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection Affordable Health Care Act, while declining to get involved in the lieutenant governor’s and secretary of state’s tilts (although he left the door for something in the latter case).
For the Legislature, only one inter-party rivalry he treated exceptionally, endorsing state Rep. Karen St. Germain, who is one of the most conservative members of the body, over a Republican challenger. While passing on some of these contests, he does back some Republican challengers over incumbent Democrats. Because state Rep. Bernard LeBas has been less liberal than many of his colleagues, Jindal’s support of his opponent Julie Harrington is a reflection of the quality and harmony he sees with her (another Republican filed to run as well) and allies. By contrast, his support of GOP challengers against state Sen. Eric LaFleur, one of the most partisan and liberal Democrats in the Legislature, and state Rep. Robert Johnson, who publicly bucked Jindal successfully on forestalling prison privatization, are not surprising.
Nor is his tabbing an opponent of state Rep. Neil Abramson, who also was a thorn in Jindal’s side on several issues, and his glaring non-endorsement of state Sen. Robert Adley (he did endorse unopposed new GOP convert Walter Lee for BESE), a Republican running unopposed, all that surprising. In Adley’s case, rumors abound that Jindal tried to line up an opponent against him, even going so far as to hoping some local candidates for other offices would instead take him on. Adley’s tireless self-promotion to the point of hypocrisy, using Jindal as a foil, no doubt wore on Jindal who nonetheless has used his influence to marginalize any power Adley has in the Legislature.
This kind of selective involvement demonstrates Jindal’s determination to stick around through a second term, rather than chase another office or appointment. Otherwise, he would show little interest in trying to shape the environment in which he will try to have policy success. Complimenting that is his endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the presidency in 2012 with the assurance he does not seek to be vice president.
Of course, nobody runs for the second slot and yet few turn it down when asked despite previous demonstrative denials of interest. But it makes sense from Jindal’s perspective to defer if he has higher executive office in mind. If the GOP nominee, as increasingly expected, wins next year, Jindal’s next shot at the White House would be in 2020 and he would be five years removed from having been governor. It gives him plenty of time to lay the groundwork for a bid and the chance to take a high-profile position in the second term of the 2012 winner, or, if that reelection fails, be reasonably removed from the scene to offer an unsullied candidacy for four years later. Should Pres. Barack Obama make a comeback to get a second term, any meaningful policy-making power Jindal would have as governor would end right about when he needs to formally announce a candidacy for the presidency to succeed Obama.
So that’s what these choices tell us – an attempt to influence the composition of state elective offices to grease the skids for a second-term agenda Jindal hopes impresses, as well as acquiring a small chit from an ideologically-congruent presidential frontrunner to facilitate higher ambitions in 2016 or 2020.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 11:35