The national media reported that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spent at least part of last week in Colorado rallying with other GOP governors for the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Jindal’s staffers last week, following their usual practice, refused to answer repeated requests from reporters about the governor’s whereabouts until after he arrived at his destination, this time Aspen. The governor himself has been unavailable to Louisiana voters except for a few carefully controlled ribbon cuttings around the state that are announced about two hours before they happen.
Why so secretive about the state’s highest elected official?
Like a Buddhist seeking inner peace, Jindal’s Communications Director Kyle Plotkin repeats a mantra: “We send out advisories before the governor’s events.”
Who is paying for his travel?
Whoever asked for the governor’s involvement pays, says his press secretary Shannon Bates. All will be revealed on the campaign finance reports, she said.
Not necessarily, says Alainna Giacone, a Louisiana Board of Ethics’ staffer. Campaign finance reports need only report contributions and expenses for the candidate’s campaign. Personal financial disclosures are for reporting income, assets and liabilities, she said.
The Romney campaign disclosures to the Federal Election Commission show spending for travel, but do not detail for whom or how.
Jindal’s closest political adviser, Timmy Teepell, says the governor isn’t hiding from Louisiana voters; he’s focusing on what is important to Louisiana. Earlier this year that focus was on expanding vouchers and reducing teacher tenure. Now it is on defeating President Barack Obama, whose policies Jindal believes are harming the state, Teepell said.
“They protect him way too much,” said LSU professor Bob Mann, who was communications director for Gov. Kathleen Blanco and an aide to U.S. Sen. John Breaux. Mann argues that part of an elected official’s job — and certainly an integral part of the hard-wiring of most politicians he has been around — is to engage voters and opponents with the goal of persuading them.
Jindal’s method of operation has been to ignore and to isolate — fire them, if possible — anyone who questions his policies, largely, Mann acknowledged, because his supporters turn out to vote, while his opponents, for the most part, do not.
“Jindal fundamentally doesn’t care whether those people are against him. He doesn’t need them and he doesn’t talk to them,” Mann said. “That’s fine if you don’t have a real opponent.”
“His noncommunication strategy is kind of helping,” as far as Jindal’s apparent bid to be Romney’s running mate, said Kirby Goidel. “He’s incredibly disciplined and on message, which for a presidential campaign is a strength,” he said.
As LSU director of the Manship School’s Research Facility, Goidel oversaw a recent nationwide survey that found Romney would be better off picking a moderate running mate. But that puts the Romney campaign in the dilemma of needing a vice presidential candidate who is exciting and can energize “red meat” Republicans to go vote in November, the way Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin did in 2008, while not alienating non-GOP voters, the way Palin also did.
The LSU survey showed that Jindal doesn’t have name recognition among the rank-and-file voters nationally. But he comes across nationally as smart and competent, someone who can talk with the syntax of an evangelical, and whose policies are checked off a Republican wish list, Goidel said.
A superficial glance at Jindal’s record in Louisiana works in his favor in the GOP veep-stakes, Goidel said. And national commentators seem to have uncritically accepted Jindal’s spin on his record.
“Somebody who digs a little deeper, then the record isn’t as strong as it appears,” Goidel said.
But, in the end, Goidel said, all the disciplined communications and careful cultivation is likely to go for naught in the face of hard political calculus.
Former Gov. Buddy Roemer, until recently a presidential candidate himself, is more succinct when he says he looks at the situation as a politician.
If Romney loses both Ohio and Florida, he loses in November. It makes sense that the selection will need to help win those states, Roemer said.
“He has a lot skills,” Roemer said of Jindal. “I don’t think he’ll be selected.”
Mark Ballard is editor of
The Advocate Capitol news
bureau. His email address
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