It has been all Jindal all the time since this past weekend no matter where you turn. First, check out his appearance on Meet the Press where he explains why he is going to refuse (some of) Obama’s stimulus money that was bound for his peeps in Louisiana:
Later tonight he will be giving the official Republican rebuttal to Obama’s unofficial State of the Union speech. The Republican party is clearly positioning him as the face of the opposition going in to 2012. The question I want to examine in this post is very narrow. “Is Jindal’s early visible opposition to a popular President and his rejection of money for his state going to help or hurt his presidential ambitions?” I say it will ultimately hurt him and below are the reasons why.
First let’s look at the players lining up for a shot at Obama in 2012. I believe they fall into two categories: traditionalists and pragmatists. Right now the prominent folks in the traditionalist camp include Jindal, Steele, Palin, Sanford, and Romney. In the pragmatist camp you have fewer folks like Florida governor Crist and Utah governor Huntsman. The traditionalists believe that the way to win back the White House in 2012 is to be “more Republican” and go out of your way to say that your opponents are socialists and that you will fight them with your dying breath. They believe if Republicans are true to their “ideals” (whatever those are) they will take power once again because Americans like those ideals. They ignore the passion with which their own party flung aside those ideals for at least the last eight years. Crist and Huntsman are taking the other approach. They are visibly cooperating with Obama and welcome the stimulus money for their state even if they are vilified by the mainstream Republican establishment. Like Obama, in public they say that they favor data driven solutions over partisan idealogy.
So let’s go back to Jindal now. He has thus far made two long term strategic mistakes (in my opinion) if his intention was to win the White House:
1) He has come out of stealth mode too early and made himself a target…for everyone. Obama and the Dems will make an example out of the obstructionist Jindal. They will claim he is putting his presidential aspirations above the people of his state. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin already said so. Some of his future Republican opponents will also begin to backstab him as the frontrunner they want to roll past.
He is only 37 years old. He should have slow-played his strong hand by waiting until 2010 to see how Obama’s stimulus strategy worked and then making his move if it didn’t work well or waiting until 2016 if it did. In poker terms, he is going all-in before the flop and everyone on the table knows his “tell.”
2) He’s leaves himself wide-open to be labeled as a flip-flopper or a hypocrite. This is similar to how Sarah Palin said she did not accept money for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” except that she did.
Clyburn went on to accuse the 37-year-old GOP phenom of post-Katrina hypocrisy:
“In the wake of a natural disaster after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, then-Congressman Jindal cosponsored and supported legislation to expand unemployment benefits and inject federal dollars into Louisiana’s unemployment trust fund. Yet today in the face of a financial disaster and record unemployment, he opposes similar action under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. What changed?”
“That’s why there is a provision in the law to allow state legislatures to draw down funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by concurrent resolution if their governor doesn’t act within 45 days. I’ve spoken to legislative leaders from South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi whose constituents are in desperate need of fiscal stimulus–these leaders don’t plan to leave any money on the table.” [Link]
p>Crist and Hunstman come away from all this looking pretty good. They are separating themselves from the Republican pack (especially the unpopular D.C. Republican pack) by publicly cooperating with Obama. Americans love cooperators. They also have left plenty of room to come back and say that Obama had the right strategy but a flawed execution and that they could do better.
In short, I think Jindal should re-think his strategy and take it down a notch if the boy wonder hopes to ever win the White House. Right now I would bet against him.