The Case for Jindal
Bobby Jindal is one of the rising stars in the Republican party. At a time when few conservatives are excited about any Republican, Jindal has been effusively praised by Michelle Malkin, and been referred to as the “next Reagan” by Rush Limbaugh. He has a very bright future in the GOP. So bright, in fact, that there has been talk that John McCain may make him his running mate. Jindal certainly would add to the ticket—he is young (thirty-six), Indian-American, and a true conservative.
There are also compelling arguments against making Jindal McCain’s running mate. He is inexperienced—three years in the House of Representatives, then less than four years as governor of Louisiana. That sort of experience makes Barack Obama look like a grizzled old political veteran. Furthermore, Jindal’s youth may be too much of a good thing—voters want a nice young face, but Jindal looks like he just graduated from high school.
Jindal has impeccable conservative ideas—but those aren’t all one needs to run a country. Experience does matter—and Jindal has very little. Were something to happen to McCain (and McCain will be 72 when he is sworn in), it seems unlikely that Jindal would be prepared to run the country.
The VP slot would probably not be a good thing for Jindal’s career. He might be the fastest rising politician in America—is there any reason to take a chance by allying himself with John McCain, who could easily lose in November? Given his popularity, he can afford to wait a few years before considering a presidential run. If he governs well for four years in Louisiana, he could mount a campaign in 2012 with ample experience, the full support of the conservative media, and campaign in a political atmosphere far more favorable to Republicans. And he will still be only forty. If asked, Jindal probably refuse the VP slot.
McCain-Jindal wouldn’t be the best thing for either Bobby Jindal or the country. Yet McCain should still try to make Jindal his running mate. McCain wants to win—and with Bobby Jindal on the ticket as his chances of doing so would be increased very much.
One of McCain’s biggest weaknesses is the fact that so few conservatives—who still make up the backbone of the Republican party—support his candidacy. Adding Jindal to the ticket wouldn’t bring all these conservatives back, but some would be so reassured by this gesture that they would support McCain. Others would vote Republican simply out of allegiance to the man Rush has called the “next Reagan.”
Jindal is also Indian-American. One of the defining media narratives of the election has been the idea of a minority (a black man, a women) being elected president. Jindal wouldn’t defuse this issue—but he would at least partly neutralize it.
McCain needs someone like Jindal to energize his campaign and make it acceptable to conservatives. Besides Jindal, there aren’t many people who could do so. (Mitt Romney? Mike Huckabee? Charlie Crist? I don’t think so—none of these guys could get many voters excited). Bobby Jindal might not be ready—but McCain needs him.
Whether McCain thinks so is another matter. He tends to keep his own counsel, and has a sense of honor as confusing and occasionally irritating as Cormac McCarthy’s rules of grammar. He may decide that nominating Jindal as his running mate would be pandering to conservatives (something I would actually like to see McCain do), or decide that he needs someone a bit more established, or may decide to nominate, say, Lindsey Graham for some strange and incomprehensible reason. He may not pick Bobby Jindal for his running mate—but he should.