Jindal works the McCain campaign trail

Published 4:43 pm Wednesday, June 4, 2008

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republican presidential contender John McCain’s two-day visit to Louisiana fueled continued speculation that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal might be McCain’s running mate and confirmed Jindal’s status as a rising star in the national GOP.

“It’s a pleasure to be here with one of the really important leaders in the future of this country, Gov. Jindal,” McCain said Wednesday at a press conference with the governor.

Jindal campaigned with the U.S. senator at a packed town hall meeting in downtown Baton Rouge and hosted a luncheon fundraiser for McCain with former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer. A day earlier, Jindal joined McCain at a stop in Kenner, a New Orleans suburb in Jindal’s former congressional district, where the governor still owns a home.

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That follows a Memorial Day weekend visit to McCain’s ranch home in Arizona. Also, several prominent conservatives continue to tout Jindal as a good vice presidential candidate on the GOP ticket against Democrat Barack Obama.

Jindal, 36, the son of Indian immigrants and the nation’s youngest sitting governor, repeatedly has tossed aside rumors he could be McCain’s running mate and has insisted that he and McCain haven’t discussed the idea.

But his minority background and strong support from Christian conservatives who have given McCain a chilly reception make Jindal an attractive vice presidential candidate, said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.

“There aren’t many statewide officeholders who are not white in the Republican Party. That’s just the blunt truth, and so if McCain wants to diversify the ticket, Jindal is an excellent way to do it. It’s a chess move to counteract, if not checkmate, the Obama nomination,” Sabato said.

Though he called Jindal a “hot property,” Sabato said Jindal’s age and short time as governor would be problems if he became McCain’s running mate. Jindal took office in January after serving three years in Congress.

Even if Jindal isn’t tapped as McCain’s vice presidential candidate, political analysts said the U.S. senator’s visit and Jindal’s relationship with him show the Louisiana governor is a political player nationally.

“I think there’s no doubt he’s someone the Republican Party’s going to want to promote and give national visibility to. Even if he doesn’t get the V-P slot, I’d expect to see him play a prominent role in the (Republican) national convention,” said Kirby Goidel, a Louisiana State University political science professor.

On Wednesday, McCain praised Jindal for a package of ethics law changes he successfully pushed through the Louisiana Legislature earlier this year and said Jindal has worked successfully with both Democrats and Republicans.

Goidel said McCain’s visit to Louisiana could help him distance himself from President Bush’s failures after Hurricane Katrina.

Goidel added, “But I have to believe that he’s back here again, at least in part, as sort of an auditioning” of Jindal.