Gov. Bobby Jindal sidestepped speculation Thursday that his launch of a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group signals the start of a presidential campaign.
Three years ahead of the race for the Oval Office, Jindal founded “America Next” to deliver solutions on national topics such as health care, energy and education. He hired one of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign managers to run the organization.
“I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in 2016, but I do want to talk about what I’m focused on right now,” Jindal said during a conference call with State Capitol reporters.
By not ruling out a possible run, Jindal took a step further than he did previously. Until now, he firmly told the media that he has the job he wants. His political adviser, Timmy Teepell, told reporters in the past that Jindal - who cannot seek a third consecutive term - might sit out for four years and then run for governor again.
Heading “America Next” as executive director is Jill Neunaber. Neunaber’s most recent job was helming Massachusetts investor Gabriel Gomez’s unsuccessful attempt to replace Secretary of State John Kerry in the U.S. Senate. She also worked on Romney’s presidential campaign.
Neunaber tweeted Wednesday that she is thrilled to be helping Jindal “win war of ideas.”
On America Next’s website — http://americanxt.org/ — the governor is listed as the honorary chairman. A sample quote in his introductory letter: “Margaret Thatcher famously contended that first we must win the war of ideas, after that we can win the election.”
Jindal said he plans to raise money for the organization’s expenses, not explaining where the startup costs came from to launch a website and hire staff. In addition to Neunaber, the governor’s longtime political adviser Curt Anderson of OnMessage Inc., will help the organization.
The governor said he plans to bring in employees from across the U.S., reaching out beyond Washington, D.C.
Anderson said his contribution will be to keep up with the smart people involved, including Jindal.
“This thing is in its infancy right now. I figure we will spread these policy prescriptions on the interwebs and any other way we can,” Anderson said, adding that the nonprofit will not be involved in elections.
Former Gov. Buddy Roemer, who recently ran for president, said it is clear to him that Jindal’s nonprofit is a step toward running for the White House. Roemer said he does not know why else Jindal would launch the organization.
“It’s one way and, frankly, a very bright way of doing that. For example, I’ve seen no Republican alternative to Obamacare. I hear the criticism, and I agree with a lot of it, but what’s your alternative?” Roemer said.
Jindal has been a vocal critic of Obamacare. Citing long-term costs, he rejected the federal Medicaid expansion that could enroll up to 400,000 additional state residents. Medicaid provides health insurance to the poor and uninsured, mainly children, the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled.
The governor said he wants to develop detailed policies that go beyond 30-second ads and bumper stickers. He said ideas will be spread through speeches, Capitol Hill testimony and policy guides.
“Conservatives have been great about talking about what we don’t like ... Where I think we need to be more aggressive is providing a conservative alternative,” Jindal said.