Barack Obama hasn’t even taken the oath of office yet, and already, political commentators are heralding the beginning of the 2012 Presidential election. Yesterday, our Governor made the rounds in Iowa, signaling to many outside observers that Jindal may be laying the groundwork for a run at the White House in 2012.
It’s a good question, though, to be fair, Jindal actually announced his planned visit well in advance of this year’s Presidential election.
Mr. Jindal has been Governor of Louisiana for less than a year.
He was inaugurated on January 14, 2008.
He spent the first few months of his tenure negotiating with state legislators, among other things, hoping to exchange pay raises for his school vouchers agenda. In other words, he consented to exorbitant, immediate raises for state legislators, as long as they would help usher in his agenda on vouchers.
Then, of course, the whole thing blew up in his face. The public was livid, though at first, Jindal refused to directly intervene. He didn’t want to break his word.
But his base grew angry. Republicans, believe it or not, mounted a recall effort against Jindal in order to pressure him into vetoeing the pay raise bill. And Jindal eventually relented.
There’s no doubt the pay raise debacle will be remembered as the defining issue of Jindal’s first year as governor. At least for political observers here in Louisiana.
When the legislative session ended, Jindal, who hadn’t even been in office for six months, went back onto the campaign trail. He pushed hard for John McCain, and he was even considered a top contender for the Vice Presidential nomination. He cut a commercial for the failed Senatorial campaign of John N. Kennedy. And yesterday, he toured Iowa, offering him a first glimpse of the landscape in which he must compete if he wants to secure the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012.
We have a lot of work to be done in Louisiana. Remember, regardless of what you feel about him, when Bill Clinton ran for the Presidency in 1992, he ran on his record as Governor of Arkansas.
Mr. Jindal is not only a politician; he’s an executive. Less than a year after being sworn in (and inheriting a surplus), Jindal now must negotiate a State with a budget shortfall of over $1 billion.
Before anyone unconditionally praises the State’s response to Gustav (which was obviously not nearly as severe as Katrina or Rita), consider this: Widespread disorganization and pandemonium among the highest political appointees charged with supervising the response, bus drivers responsible for transporting evacuees not sure of where they needed to go, and shelters in shambles. It’s all too convenient to claim success when you’re comparing the damages inflicted by Category 2 Gustav with Category 4 Katrina and Category 3 Rita. But when you place the State’s response in context, there’s not much to brag about.
And all of those “lists” of which Mr. Jindal referenced when he was campaigning: Louisiana is STILL at the bottom. (Aside from our State’s improvement on a list on ethics, despite Jindal’s upturning and erosion of the State Ethics Board, his interpretation of executive privilege, and the lack of any substantive reforms on campaign finance).
Louisiana’s crime and poverty rates are still the subject of national scrutiny, showing no signs of improvement. And Louisiana Medicaid continues to struggle. (Governor Jindal’s proposal for Medicaid, which will be the subject of a future post, appears, at least in its current incarnation, to completely misunderstand the fundamental problems, viewing Medicaid as a business in need of restructuring and not as a service in need of solvency).
If Mr. Jindal wants to run for President in 2012, then he has three years to demonstrate substantial, post-partisan accomplishments. And if he wants to run for reelection as Governor in 2011, he’d better begin now.