October 3, 2008...In the midst of a sagging economy and an unpopular war, it is no surprise that President George W. Bush is extremely unpopular. His approval numbers are now below 30%, in the range of Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter. Bush's troubles are impacting Republicans all across the nation. At this point, it is conventional wisdom that the Republican Party will lose seats in Congress this fall and face minority status on Capitol Hill. John McCain is the underdog in the presidential race, as some polls show him seven to nine points behind Barack Obama.

 

There is little doubt that these are precarious days for the Republican Party; however, in this disturbing environment, there is at least one bright star, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Across the nation, Jindal is in high demand for GOP fundraisers and rallies. In a short amount of time, he has gained a very positive reputation among the Republican faithful throughout the country. Jindal is viewed as a talented young Governor who has displayed competent leadership while maintaining strong conservative principles. For a new Governor from a small state, Jindal is well known due to his frequent appearances on national television programs and his top billing in the GOP vice presidential sweepstakes. Even though he was not selected by John McCain as his running mate, the whole process served to increase Jindal's name recognition throughout the country. 

 

Interestingly, while his popularity has increased throughout GOP circles, Jindal has had to recover from a major misstep here in Louisiana. During his first few months in office, Jindal has been able to achieve some significant legislative victories; most notably the ethics reform agenda that was passed in the first special session. Yet, this progress was sidetracked by the legislative pay raise debacle which cost Jindal significant support and nearly led to a recall campaign.

 

Since those dark days three months ago, Jindal has regained all of the popularity he lost while he was in the eye of the pay raise storm. In fact, after his solid performance during Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, Jindal is more popular than ever. To capitalize on his fame, GOP candidates across the nation are asking Jindal to campaign for them. For example, Washington gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi asked Jindal to headline his early September fundraiser. Due to the hurricanes, Jindal could not attend in person, but he appeared via video. Just last week, Jindal was the special guest at a Columbia, Missouri fundraiser for Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof. This week, Jindal was in Mississippi campaigning for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roger Wicker.  

 

If not for the hurricanes, Jindal would have played a prominent role at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. With Governor Sarah Palin running into trouble over her performance in recent media interviews, some conservatives leaders are lamenting that John McCain should have selected Jindal as his running mate.  According to Republican commentator Nick Sloan, Jindal would have been a better choice than Palin because "he would have also motivated the conservative base, as his record on social issues is impressive for the base and has been hailed as the next Ronald Reagan. He would have brought a tad more experience than Palin, and McCain would not have to explain away his selection after undercutting Obama with the non-experience issue."

 

Despite not being selected as McCain's running mate, the Republican Party knows that Jindal is a rising star at a time in which the brand name of the party has never been in worse shape. Regardless of what happens in November, as long as Jindal can continue to show progress in Louisiana, his political future seems very bright indeed.

 



Jeff Crouere is the Host of "Ringside Politics," which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. He is the Political Analyst for WGNO-TV ABC26 and the Political Editor for NewOrleans.com. For more information, visit his web site at RingsidePolitics.com. E-mail him at jeff@ringsidepolitics.com.