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McCain invite of Jindal won't lead to VP offer

Elsewhere I have shown why, from a political standpoint, Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal would be unwise to accept nomination as presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate. Now it’s time to explain why Jindal’s invitation to hang out with McCain this Memorial Day weekend is unlikely to draw such an offer from McCain.

With his opponent increasingly looking like Sen. Barack Obama, McCain needs four things from a running mate. First, McCain will be the oldest previously unelected president if he wins so while he doesn’t necessarily need a whippersnapper half his age, he does need somebody considerably younger or, at the very least, someone who projects a strong, youthful image who is younger by at least a decade.

Second, suspicion of McCain by conservatives for his considerably moderate, even liberal, views on the environment and government spending requires a reliably conservative partner. Third, that person should be popular in a state that looks to be a toss-up in the Electoral College. Finally, this individual must compensate for Obama’s perceived strengths and not duplicate Obama’s perceived weaknesses.

The unofficial guest list has the likes of Jindal, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sens. Sam Brownback, Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and some corporate moguls. McCain himself has pointed out he has had others drop by solo for a day or two, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who will not be there because of a wedding he wishes to attend.

With these names and criteria in mind, it shows that Jindal does well in two categories, washes with a third, but comes up short on perhaps the most important one of all. He is younger and a genuine conservative. However, while being an ethnic minority counters Obama’s “magic” appeal Jindal’s national and/or executive political experience is about that of Obama’s, brief, a quality which McCain will use to paint Obama as unready for prime time and would not want to have in his running mate.

These three traits keep Jindal up there with the likes of Crist, Pawlenty, Romney, Brownback, and Graham. But what knocks him, and most them, into the second tier is that they come from noncompetitive states in the election. Louisiana, like Kansas and South Carolina, are almost certain to vote for McCain, while Massachusetts will likely vote for Obama regardless of whom McCain chooses. Only Crist and Pawlenty come from “swing” states where the nomination of either almost certainly would put that state in the GOP column.

There’s one other consideration that really disqualifies Jindal: among those names listed above, in every instance upon election he would be expected to be replaced by a Republican, either through election or by state constitutional imperatives. Only Jindal would not be, succeeded by Democrat Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu. In an election year where even as McCain is at least even money against Obama, Republicans look likely to lose seats in Congress so Republican positions of power will be conserved wherever possible.

This is why this weekend Jindal should use the time to get to know the guy most likely to be the next U.S. President in order to help Louisiana and to assist any future political aspirations that he may have. He should not expect that in a couple of months this will lead to a shot at the nation’s second-highest office.

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