Jindal's Story Intrigues, But Can It Get Him A VP Nod?

Jul 29, 2012
Originally published on July 29, 2012 4:12 pm

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has a compelling life story that would add some sizzle to Mitt Romney's White House bid. But some worry he might not be a safe choice for vice president on the GOP ballot. One concern is his age. Jindal is 41 but some think he looks even younger than that, and that could be a problem at the polls. NPR's Jeff Brady originally reported this story on Morning Edition.

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Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

Speculation is growing over who Mitt Romney will pick as his running mate. NPR reporters have been taking a closer look at some of the possibilities. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is one. He's an Indian-American with a compelling life story. He could help energize the GOP ticket, but there are questions over whether he'd be a safe pick. Here's NPR's Jeff Brady with his profile.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Mention Bobby Jindal, and a lot of people still remember his 2009 Republican response to President Obama's first address before Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVAL RECORDING)

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL: My own parents came to this country from a distant land. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already four and a half months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a pre-existing condition.

BRADY: Even conservatives called the speech stiff and uninspired. But now as a surrogate for Mitt Romney, his message is polished and pointed.

JINDAL: President Obama - the most liberal, incompetent president since Jimmy Carter - never ran anything, including a lemonade stand before we elected him president of the United States. Let's add him to the 23 million unemployed Americans. Let's elect Mitt Romney president.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

BRADY: That was Jindal in Pittsburgh earlier this month. In the GOP primary, he supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry. But now, he's clearly on Mitt Romney's team. A few weeks later, Jindal was in Columbus, where the Statehouse News Bureau of Ohio Public Radio asked if he wants to be Romney's vice president.

JINDAL: We're referring all V.P. questions to the campaign. But this election is not about Joe Biden. It's about Gov. Romney versus President Obama - two very different records, two very different resumes, two very different visions for America.

BRADY: While Jindal is quick to change the topic, his name is frequently mentioned. He has an impressive resume. After college, a Rhodes Scholarship and a stint with a management-consulting firm, Jindal was appointed secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. He was only 24 years old. At 33, he was elected to Congress and three years later, governor.

Jindal was widely praised for leading a huge, pre-hurricane evacuation three years after the failed response to Katrina. He also earned high marks for his response to BP's oil spill in 2010. And Jindal is very good at raising campaign money. John Maginnis writes the political newsletter "LaPolitics Weekly," in Baton Rouge.

JOHN MAGINNIS: Where he does his very best is in a - very small rooms filled with very rich people. He's great, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

MAGINNIS: He'll lighten their wallets every time.

BRADY: Maginnis says Jindal would be a safe pick for Mitt Romney, ideologically. Even though one-fifth of Louisiana residents don't have health insurance, Jindal is an unsparing critic of President Obama's health-care overhaul. He opposed the law's expansion of Medicaid. And Maginnis says in his second term as governor, Jindal has maintained his reputation as a fiscal conservative.

MAGINNIS: Most importantly for the Republicans, he has not raised taxes. And he's even, in one case, vetoed the renewal of a 4-cent cigarette tax - which there was absolutely no opposition to.

BRADY: That hard-line approach appeals to an important voting bloc in the Republican Party: conservative evangelical Christians. Jindal converted from Hinduism to Catholicism in his teens. Given his firm opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage, he's on good footing with evangelicals. As an Indian-American, he would add some sizzle to the Romney ticket, says Michael Cromartie with the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

MICHAEL CROMARTIE: I think there are many people in the Republican Party who want to be seen as an inclusive party. And so it would add, in the dynamic - running against President Obama - to have somebody of a different ethnicity.

BRADY: But, Cromartie says, there could be one problem: Jindal is only 41 years old.

CROMARTIE: And he has the benefit of looking like he's about 20. But that may not help him politically.

BRADY: Cromartie says he thinks Jindal is ready, but he suspects some voters would rather see a few more gray hairs before Bobby Jindal advances to a national office like vice president.

Jeff Brady, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.