Gov. Bobby Jindal praised Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s running mate choice Saturday and dismissed speculation that he is angling for a cabinet post.
Jindal frequently joined Romney on the campaign trail and had emerged as a possible vice presidential candidate. The governor made appearances for Romney in Louisiana, Ohio, Utah, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Colorado.
On Saturday, Romney publicly announced that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will join him on the GOP ticket.
“Paul is a good friend and one of the smartest guys I served with in Congress. He has the courage of his convictions, which is what our nation needs,” Jindal said in a prepared statement.
The state’s other GOP political leaders also praised Romney’s pick.
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said Ryan is the “perfect choice” for Romney to focus the election on the “national debt, middle-class prosperity and how we get our country rolling again.”
But U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., issued a statement saying, “The choice of Congressman Ryan will bring needed definition to the Romney message but cutting taxes for the top 2 percent by curbing middle class benefits is going to be a hard sell.”
Jindal downplayed the chatter about his political aspirations, dousing speculation that reached a fever pitch in recent weeks and resulted in the analyzation of his slightest moves, such as changes involving his web server.
“Don’t mistake my motives here. I have been traveling all over the country and been campaigning for and with Gov. Romney because it is crucial that he wins, and that we make Barack Obama a one-term president. As for me — why would a guy with the best job in the world be looking for another one?” he said.
The governor’s political adviser, Timmy Teepell, refused to comment on whether Jindal was on Romney’s short list for vice president. Being vetted would have involved probing questions and a background check.
Ryan’s elevation does not mean Jindal is bowing out of the Romney campaign.
Teepell said Jindal will be back on the campaign trail for Romney this week because the governor considers the presidential race to be critical to Louisiana-centric issues such as energy exploration.
“He loves being governor. He’s going to be governor until the very last day of his second term. None of that’s changed,” Teepell said.
Former Republican U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery said the Romney campaign gave Jindal the help he needed to banish memories of a disastrous national address.
During his first term as governor, Jindal was panned for delivering a sing-songy Republican response to Obama’s first national address.
“Now Bobby’s political prospects will be judged solely by his full résumé of public service, especially his job as governor of Louisiana. He has a very bright future in public service if he continues to desire that path in his professional life,” McCrery said.
McCrery and the Republican members of the Louisiana congressional delegation raved about the selection of Ryan as Romney’s vice presidential selection for his ticket.
McCrery said Ryan was one of his best friends in Congress and brings a youthful flair to the Romney campaign.
“He brings to the ticket youth, knowledge, and an easy manner,” McCrery said. “Young people who have grown up in the digital age will identify with Paul, who is very tech-savvy.”
Cassidy said Ryan’s inclusion will make the campaign more focused on the issues where Cassidy said Obama is weak.
Obama and other Democrats deride the House-approved Ryan budget proposal for making too severe of cuts to Medicare and many social programs.
“Right now, it’s been about silly things,” Cassidy said. “We have to move beyond character assassination and actually talk about things that are important.
“At some point, good policy has to become good politics,” he added.
As for Jindal not being selected by Romney, Cassidy said he was rooting for the Louisiana governor out of “home state pride.” But Ryan is from a swing state in Wisconsin, Cassidy said, and Romney already has Louisiana locked up.
“I have no doubt Bobby Jindal will have an opportunity to be in the Romney administration,” Cassidy said.
A Romney-Ryan sign hung from the podium on Saturday as the state Republican Party opened its meeting.
State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere and former U.S. Rep. John Cooksey, who served with Ryan in Congress, said Ryan’s biggest attribute for the GOP ticket is his savvy about the federal budget.
“He’s strong on the budget,” Villere said. “He’s strong on the issues and will engage President Obama on the issue not just by hurling accusations.”
Cooksey, a member of the state central committee, said Ryan “had more national focus” than other running mates that Romney considered.
Villere said Ryan is also best friends with the national chairman of the Republican National Committee.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, agreed, noting, “I think Bobby is going to continue to be a real asset for Romney nationally.”
But Scalise said, “Paul Ryan was my top pick for a long time.”
“I think Paul is one of the smartest people in Washington,” Scalise said.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and the rest of the Louisiana delegation did not respond to interview requests, but several of them did put out prepared statements.
“I think the world of Paul Ryan,” Vitter stated. “We came to Congress at almost the same time, served together, even spent some of 9/11 together as we met on the street and walked back to the Capitol that afternoon. Paul brings youth, energy, intellect, and strong conservative reform leadership to the ticket.”
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, who are running against each other because of redistricting, also put out statements praising the Ryan selection.
“As a strong and proud supporter of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, I am extremely pleased and look forward to supporting the ticket,” Boustany stated.
Landry stated that Ryan has the “vision and courage” to put the nation back on the right path.
The only Democratic member of the Louisiana delegation in the House, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, did not respond to interview requests Saturday.
Marsha Shuler contributed
to this story.