We were sorely disappointed in November 2003 when Republican Bobby Jindal narrowly lost to Democrat Kathleen Blanco in his Louisiana gubernatorial bid. Jindal was then a 32-year-old wunderkind — a policy wonk with degrees from Brown and Oxford — whose parents emigrated from India to Baton Rouge before he was born. We celebrated the emergence of “Bubbas for Bobby” in the course of that campaign and we also quoted at length from Fred Barnes’s terrific Weekly Standard profile of Jindal (subscribers only):
Jindal has an extraordinary life story. His given first name is Piyush, but at age 4 he decided to change it to Bobby. In high school, he abandoned his parents’ Hindu faith and converted to Catholicism. (His father is an engineer, his mother an assistant secretary in the Louisiana state labor department.) By the time he graduated from Baton Rouge High School, Jindal was a Republican. When he got to Brown–an eight-year medical program had attracted him–he naively asked about joining the College Republicans. There was no chapter at Brown. The Republican club Jindal subsequently helped found grew, he says, to 300 members, a surprisingly large membership for a liberal Ivy League school.
His post-Brown career has been dizzying. Instead of pursuing medicine, Jindal studied at Oxford for two years as a Rhodes Scholar, worked the next two years for McKinsey, the business consulting firm, and at age 24 returned to Baton Rouge to take over, at Foster’s urging, the mammoth Department of Health and Hospitals. There, he transformed a $400 million deficit into a $220 million surplus…
He’s issued lengthy position papers on health care, ethics, economic opportunity, the environment, schools, and religious faith. These were packaged together last week in a glossy 24-page booklet entitled “The Jindal Blueprint for Louisiana–A Bold New Vision.” Most notable is the section on “defending the role of faith and values in our state.” In it, he tells how a friend led him to Christian faith. “Today, my faith in Jesus Christ is central to who I am, and I pray regularly for God’s wisdom in all the parts of my life,” he says.
Jindal says he became a Republican as a teenager for two reasons. In Louisiana, with its history of political corruption, Republicans are the reform party. Also, they’re the champions of opportunity. “I’d seen what great opportunity my father had [in America] as an engineer,” he said in an interview. His mother has succeeded in state government, he said, and “I’m running for governor. This is an amazing country.”
As Yogi Berra said of the election of a Jewish mayor of Dublin, “Only in America.”
Jindal lost the 2003 gubernatorial election, but he was subsequently elected to Congress with a mere 78 percent of the vote in his suburban New Orleans district. In a dour season for Republicans, we are happy to note Jindal’s election yesterday as the governor of Louisiana with approximately 53 percent of the vote in a twelve-candidate field.
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