Gov. Bobby Jindal is popular in northeast Louisiana, and he is often listed as a potential vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket in the 2012 election.
While the nation awaits former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's choice of a running mate, the Enterprise asked members of the community to share their thoughts about the possibility of Jindal running for higher office – either as Romney's VP or as a candidate for the White House further down the road.
“I think he would be an excellent pick [for vice president],” said Samuel M. Jackson of Bastrop. “I believe he has a commitment to the state to finish what he started here. However, I also understand that sometimes things change.”
Jackson noted Jindal's instrumental role in bringing DG Foods' poultry processing plant to Bastrop. In Nov. 2008, Jindal pledged his administration would do all it could to help the area economy recover after the announcement that International Paper Co. was closing its Louisiana Mill. In Dec. 2010 Jindal joined local officials in announcing the decision by DG Foods to locate a plant here, facilitated by an incentive package through the city and Louisiana Economic Development.
Jackson said he thinks Jindal would add stability to the Romney ticket. However, “I would hate to see him go. He has been an asset to northeast Louisiana. He cares for the people here. I don't know one person who has the same enthusiasm for northeast Louisiana as our current governor.”
Bastrop-Morehouse Chamber of Commerce director Dorothy Ford echoed the sentiment.
“I would hate to lose him, because he's doing a lot of good for Louisiana,” she said. “But I think [Jindal running for higher office] would be good for Louisiana. These are his roots. I don't think he'll forget where he came from.”
Born in Baton Rouge, the son of Indian immigrants, Jindal studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar and was named secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals at the age of 24. He went on to serve as president of the University of Louisiana System and in 2001 was named by President George W. Bush as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2004 and 2006, Jindal won election to Congress representing Louisiana' First District, before winning election to his first term as governor in 2007.
He was mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate in the 2008 presidential election, and as a possible presidential candidate in the 2012 election. In a recent NewsMax piece, Ronald Kessler promotes Jindal as a potential VP candidate based both on his life story and his accomplishments as governor, including tightening ethics rules, reducing taxes, improving the state's credit rating and most recently, the nation's second-largest school voucher program.
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“I think he'd be a great pick for vice president,” said Jim Conley of Bastrop. “I think Romney would be wise to pick somebody from the South, to balance his ticket. But I think the chances of that happening are very slim.”
Although several well-known names have been mentioned as possible VP picks -- including New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Florida senator Marco Rubio and, most recently, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- Conley said he expects Romney to choose a VP candidate “from outside the parameters of who everybody's looking at. I think it's going to be a surprise.
“[Jindal] has said his interest in this state. But he's a young man, and he's got a lot ahead of him.”
Tim Daniels, founder of Jireh Plastic & Assemblies LLC in Bastrop, said he hopes Jindal will run for higher office, either this year or in 2016.
“He would be a strong candidate,” said Daniels. “He has an excellent track record.”
Although a candidate must be popular to win an election, he said, leaders must make tough decisions, both in business and in government.
“Governor Jindal understands business,” said Daniels. “You can't always be popular. As president, you're depending on him to see ten or fifteen years down the line and to make decisions that will allow the next generations to enjoy the same opportunities that you have today.”
Daniels noted Jindal's economic development accomplishments in Louisiana, such as the workforce recruitment program FastStart. Higher office would give Jindal the chance to bring his “passion” for economic development to a national platform.
“He has the ability to turn the country around,” said Daniels. “He's proven that in Louisiana.”