Of course, because anything can happen. But as far as anything likely to happen to derail Jindal, the pickings are far and few between. At 55 percent approval in the latest nonpartisan poll, that’s tough to beat, especially when he had at the beginning of this year over $7 million bankrolled for a run. In 2009 he netted over $4 million and his pace only has increased in 2010, meaning $12 million is not out of the question by the end of 2010, which would exceed his entire spending for his successful 2007 run.
Popular politicians can be brought down by scandal, but one look at Jindal and you have to laugh that one off. Does anybody seriously think he’s going to be caught with a live boy or a dead girl? Or that this guy is going to shake you down or sell decisions to the highest bidder?
Natural disaster response took a shaky Gov. Kathleen Blanco and blew her right out of any hopes to repeat. But that’s one of Jindal’s strengths the public learned early on when faced with his own set of potential hurricane disasters.
Really only one thing can damage Jindal to the point that he is vulnerable, and that is the constitutional fact that the burden on cost reduction in government in times of budgetary stress falls upon him. The straitjacketed state fiscal structure forces him to order cuts largely confined to the areas of higher education and health care. Even though it is just as much, if not more, the Legislature’s fault that a large deficit approaches for fiscal year 2011-12, because the Constitution makes him point man not just for budgeting but also in reductions to avoid deficit, Jindal is personified as the one responsible. Even though the state spends too much relative to its actual needs, negating any need for a tax increase, the Constitution and law prevents cutting in many areas lower priority area and thus the disproportionate cuts in the few permissible areas begin to hit higher priority elements.
After his State of the State address earlier this year, I noted here and elsewhere that Jindal needed to act with a certain amount of boldness in addressing the looming fiscal crisis, as, unfairly or otherwise, he would be held responsible. He backed some good legislation but, whether as a result of the oil spill crisis that exploded onto the scene three weeks into the session, he never really followed through in trying to get passed measures that would have enabled more options in response to budgetary difficulties or with negotiating a budget that better positioned the state to deal with this upcoming tough year.
Human nature makes frustrated people want to blame somebody, and their first inclination leads them to the most visible target, in this case Jindal. However, Jindal can deflect that by putting the onus on the Legislature to create the conditions by which to soften the blow, by his support of legislation, some of which would lead to constitutional amendments, to create additional flexibility that would permit better priorities being pursued.
This strategy would require a special session that Jindal could have dictated to make the Legislature act (or not) on the matter. Instead, he defaulted to the Legislature itself and it has called for its own special session. This doesn’t mean that the matter wouldn’t be taken up, but it certainly won’t be unless Jindal applies some pressure.
And perhaps that’s part of the plan, as the session, ostensibly planned for redistricting, is to last three weeks which caught some attention as far as its length. Maybe Jindal and/or the likes of House Speaker Jim Tucker got more time in there to leave room to take care of agenda items such as this. Even if the matter did not get onto the agenda, this does not mean that Jindal’s reelection is imperiled.
Yet if Jindal really wants to seal the deal, if he wants to state definitively to the voting public that he wants to address the crisis, by pushing for these changes essentially he thrusts responsibility onto the Legislature and the public itself. By doing so, he can argue that any negative perceptions from a sharp reduction in spending emanate from the inaction of the Legislature or the public’s own rejection of the solution (which seems unlikely; the main problem is in getting legislators to buck special interests who prefer unmolested funding of their pet services regardless how low priority they may be). He will have demonstrated he had the answer, only to be thwarted, and blame must be apportioned accordingly.
In making the attempt, Jindal can deflect the only potential criticism that does not make his reelection a slam dunk.