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Calendar militates against Jindal 2012 White House run

As speculation flies about potential national aspirations of Gov. Bobby Jindal, one thing often left out in the equation is the electoral calendar particularly is unsuitable for getting himself elected to a second term as governor and making a stab at the presidency in 2012.

As anyone who has paid attention to national politics over the past two years can relate, running for the presidency is a full time job starting at least two years out from the election. The 2008 election had particularly two newer trends that exacerbated the problem even more. One was the abandonment of public funding by serious presidential candidates in order to raise more money than ever, which takes additional time of a candidate, and the other was the most front-loaded primary schedule ever which mandates more work earlier in a campaign.

Senators who may oversee a few dozen people at most and whose only responsibility is to cast votes have the luxury of time to campaign while on the job, and the president and vice president have huge staffs and resources to help the president out with his far more numerous tasks (the vice president hardly has any, of course). But governors are another matter, who have to run a state and largely must keep state and national issues separate which makes their time campaigning for national office at a premium. It’s no accident that since the beginning of the Depression only five sitting governors were able to get a major party nomination for the presidency and just three have won, the last being Bill Clinton in 1992.

And these governors typically have an advantage that Jindal will not – about three-quarters of them are selected in off-years for presidential elections, so that they can run for reelection and as soon as that is complete, they could pick up running for the White House. Jindal will not have that opportunity since Louisiana is joined only by Mississippi in having its statewide elections in the third year of a quadrennial presidential cycle, a year later than most. In Louisiana, Jindal could get elected in October, 2011 and then face the beginning of presidential preferences primaries less than three months later, while other Republicans will have been campaigning exclusively for the presidency for months, perhaps even years. Jindal can’t, because he cannot be seen as ignoring state issues when running for reelection.

One could argue that Jindal might have that luxury. Right now, Democrat officials are whistling into a hurricane if they think Jindal will lose in 2011. Only unless Jindal proves utterly incapable of helping to fashion a fiscal solution to the current budgetary crisis would he stand any chance of not being reelected. No Republican that could win will run against him, and Democrats have few they could put up against him with any legitimate chance to win.

(Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu would rather be mayor of New Orleans in 2010 and if he can’t get that, he’s not going to give up his safe position to go up against Jindal. Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell is too old and low profile to seriously contest Jindal. Rep. Charlie Melancon probably will try for Sen. David Vitter’s seat knowing he could be redistricted out of his House job, but if he can’t beat Vitter in 2010, there’s no way he’ll beat Jindal in 2011. Sen. Mary Landrieu would not want to leave the gig she has.)

But neither will Democrats give Jindal the luxury of an easy run that could allow him to think of piggybacking a presidential candidacy on a gubernatorial one. Democrat operatives at all levels know how dangerous Jindal is to them nationally and they aren’t going to give him a pass at the state level to bolster his national stature. When the most competitive Democrats pass on the election, look for the party regulars to throw a sop to blacks by backing up a black candidate who cannot win, such as what occurred in the Seventh District this past fall and at the gubernatorial level in 1999. This move serves the dual purpose of placating black Democrat officials, as the whites running the party take for granted black votes but when this becomes too obvious it results in revolts such as state Rep. Michael Jackson’s independent bid for Congress in the Sixth District this year. If state Democrats know they will lose, at least they can take the opportunity to throw some bones to that part of their neglected base.

So even if Democrats back someone with really no chance to win, Jindal still will have to work at his reelection which will obviate any presidential campaigning. In this situation, the only way for Jindal to take a shot in 2012 would be to not run for reelection. While if president-elect Barack Obama does what he campaigned on the country will be in a mess by 2012, still it would be a gamble by Jindal to give away sure reelection for a chancy run at the White House.

When Jindal tells the media he’s only focusing on his present position, he very likely means it. By retiring after a presumably successful eight years in 2015, he would be set perfectly for a 2016 run if Obama somehow wins reelection (and would quiet critics about his “job-hopping”). If a Republican does win in 2012 he could challenge Landrieu in 2014 and set himself up for 2016 or 2020. These possible futures given the electoral calendar do make it unlikely that Jindal will go for the White House in 2012.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't Prresident Bush the sitting Governor of Texas when he was elected in 2000?

Anonymous said...

Based on the old ways of running for President, I would agree with you on this. But after the last cycle where candidates announced their run almost 2 years from election day, I think Jindal will have the option to run.

It's likely that candidates will start announcing their runs in December 2010 to March 2011 ( remember Edwards in Dec 2006, Hillary in January 07, Obama in Feb, Romney in Feb etc..) Since the LA election for Governor is in late 2011, one could see Jindal waiting til early 2011 to either officially announce his reelection bid for Gov or, if he likes what he sees of the political landscape, a run for the Presidency.

I think the "new" calendar lends itself to Governor Jindal to size up the landscape once 2011 is here and gives him the option of going either way.

Only time will tell. :)