WASHINGTON — Under the veil of a government shutdown, Gov. Bobby Jindal visited the nation’s capital Wednesday to launch a new campaign to focus on the successes of the nation’s 30 Republican governors in their states.
Jindal, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, is working on the new “American Comeback” digital campaign being initiated Thursday to push the argument that, as Jindal said, “Republican governors are driving America’s comeback.”
“We have outsourced the Republican brand to Washington, D.C., and it’s time to stop that,” Jindal said.
When asked, the governor refused to place any of the blame on House Republicans and the tea party faction for the shutdown. The closest he came was to say, “(Washington) leaders across the board are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Instead, he sharply targeted President Barack Obama for what he called a lack of leadership.
“The president needs to show leadership,” Jindal said. “He’s the chief executive.
“I know he likes to play the role of the victim. He likes to blame others for the challenges he faces. That’s not very presidential. He ran two great campaigns. He worked hard to get this job. Now that he’s got it, it’s time for him to govern and lead.
“It seems to me they’ve made the political calculation that a shutdown is good for them — good for the president and his party politically,” Jindal continued. “But he’s got to start acting more as president of the entire country and not as a partisan leader.”
As Jindal spoke with reporters, Obama was meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, but no agreements were made as the shutdown moved to a third day.
Jindal said “structural changes” are needed in Congress to move past the current crisis-to-crisis cycle. Acknowledging that many see such changes as unrealistic, Jindal said Congress needs a balanced budget requirement, a supermajority to raise taxes and congressional term limits.
With the Republican Governors Association, Jindal said there is a focus this year on the Virginia governor’s race in supporting Republican Ken Cuccinelli against Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
“We think it’s a very winnable race for Ken,” Jindal said, noting that a Democratic win in Virginia is not necessarily a bad sign for the GOP. “Every election is about those candidates and that state,” he added.
The focus is expected to shift next year to key states with Republican governors, such as Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Potentially tightly contested races with Democratic incumbents include Arkansas, Illinois, Colorado and Connecticut.
One key issue that Jindal honed in on is focusing on education improvements in states with Republican governors to change teacher tenure rules, increased accountability and building on school choice and charter school expansions.
“I believe providing a great education to every child is a moral imperative,” Jindal said.
On the much-debated topic of the Common Core standards in Louisiana, Jindal again expressed both support and concerns in ways that both proponents and critics of the Common Core standards see as positives.
Jindal’s education superintendent, John White, and the GOP leadership of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have spoken more firmly in support of the new academic benchmarks.
“We absolutely support rigorous standards. I think that is something that’s been debated in Louisiana and is a hard-fought achievement back even before my administration. We’re not retreating on high standards,” Jindal said. “We need to make sure our kids are learning the best when it comes to science, math and other subjects and are able to compete with other states and other countries, especially when that’s becoming increasingly important to get those good, high-paying jobs to bring into our state.”
But he adds that he opposes a “federal curriculum” and “federal micromanagement” of schools.
The Common Core standards did not originate from the federal government.
“I do worry about a federal intrusion into curriculum. I don’t think there is an important federal role for that. I know there have been some concerns expressed by legislators and others,” he said. “We’ve asked John White, we asked BESE to look into that and address those concerns. The Legislature is talking about doing hearings. I think that would be appropriate and a very good thing.
“I will say my concerns have been heightened given the DOJ (Department of Justice) lawsuit into our scholarship program,” Jindal continued. “The overreach by the federal government to interfere with Louisiana has certainly given me pause when you see they’ve come into our state without, I think, justification — either moral, legal or factual. I think that rightfully shows why people are rightfully concerned about a federal overreach into education.”