Recently, Republicans have exhibited a fascination with the “flavor of the month” in presidential politics. Flavors have included Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Herman Cain, and now Dr. Benjamin Carson.
The tendency towards such infatuation is understandable, especially given the Party’s tendency to nominate stale candidates like Robert Dole, John McCain, and (many would say) Mitt Romney. Unfortunately, though, a few speeches and appearances on conservative talk shows provide a dramatically insufficient basis for judging a person’s suitability for the presidency. We need to see a potential presidential candidate circle the track at least once before making such judgments.
In Chris Christie’s first full trip around the track, he over-indulged in a show of bipartisanship with President Obama on the eve of the presidential election, to the detriment of his own party’s candidate. In Marco Rubio’s first full trip around the track, he may prove to be the vehicle through which liberal Democrats (e.g., Chuck Schumer) and unreliable Republicans (e.g., McCain and Lindsey Graham) push through immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for 10 million or more illegal immigrants. Would conservatives have swooned for Rubio with such unanimity in 2009 if he had advocated such legislation then? I doubt.
Bobby Jindal was once a flavor of the month Republican. But now that he’s circling the track the second time, we’re in a better position to assess his leadership skills, his potential electoral appeal, and his conservative bona fides.
As to the latter, there’s much to like in Jindal’s record. As this report in Politico observes, after a fairly cautious first term, Jindal (having been reelected overwhelmingly) has pushed an aggressive conservative agenda:
His education reform plans last year, which drastically expanded the state’s voucher system and reformed the teacher tenure process, established Jindal as a national leader on the issue. This year, Jindal made news with his rejection of the Medicaid expansion in the national health care law.
And in perhaps his boldest proposal yet, Jindal announced he wants to eliminate the state income tax. The details of the plan, which will be taken up by the Louisiana Legislature this spring, haven’t been announced yet.
Viewing Jindal’s overall record, Phil Musser, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, concludes that “by any objective measure, Gov. Jindal has set the standard for policy accomplishments from the perspective of a forward-thinking conservative.” I agree.
Politico speculates that Jindal is pushing this agenda in anticipation of a presidential bid in 2016. Certainly, that’s a possibility. But Politico fails to provide any evidence (other than its own view that Jindal should accept the Medicaid expansion) to support the notion that Jindal’s actions are not in line with his beliefs.
Right now, for what it’s worth, Rubio and Rand Paul are the most widely mentioned prospective Republican presidential candidates for 2016. Right now, for what it’s worth, I think I prefer Jindal.