With Republicans’ failed presidential bid behind them, Gov. Bobby Jindal gave an interview for a national political audience and flew to Las Vegas on Tuesday to claim a crown that could make him a contender in the next White House race.
Jindal is expected to become chairman of the Republican Governors Association this week in Nevada, igniting speculation about his future.
Former Gov. Buddy Roemer said Jindal can blaze a path to the White House by focusing on his current job as governor.
“I wish he’d spend more time in Louisiana and less time somewhere else, but he’s honest, bright. He will have a good four years if he takes care of Louisiana first and uses that to show what can be done nationally,” Roemer said.
While withholding any insight into his political ambitions, Jindal chose a national political news organization, with a popular website, for his first post-Election Day interview. Interview requests by local reporters, who write for smaller audiences in Louisiana, were rejected.
Jindal told Politico in a 45-minute interview that Republicans need to cast off “dumbed-down conservatism” and “mindless slogans” after Election Day losses.
In the Politico piece, Jindal skirted speculation he aspires to become the nation’s president while offering advice on shaping the GOP and national policy.
The governor often travels outside Louisiana to raise money for other candidates or to support Republican causes, stirring up criticism that his attention is not on running the state.
“I’m going to be focused on being governor of this great state for the next three years and being chairman of RGA next year and getting a bunch of great Republican governors elected,” Jindal told Politico.
Jindal declined, as he did after last week’s elections, to speak to local media Tuesday.
Kirby Goidel, a political analyst and director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, said no one doubts that the governor’s interests lie outside Louisiana.
“His attention is going to be focused on national politics. I think Louisiana will call him from time to time ... There’s no question that I think he’s got his eye on the national political scene,” Goidel said.
Jindal, who backed Mitt Romney’s failed Republican presidential campaign, emerged as a possible future party leader after President Barack Obama clinched his re-election bid.
He is lumped by political pundits into a field of rising Republican prospects that includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida.
“Simply being the anti-Obama party didn’t work. You can’t beat something with nothing. The reality is we have to be a party of solutions and not just bumper-sticker slogans but real detailed policy solutions,” Jindal told Politico.
For Politico, which is based in Arlington, Va., Jindal carved out nearly an hour to talk about what went wrong on Election Day. He said the Republican Party needs to “treat folks as individuals, as Americans, not as members of special interest groups.”
Jindal said the party cannot be the party of “big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts.” He stopped short of championing the idea of eliminating tax breaks for corporate jets, saying instead that everything should be considered.
Goidel said Jindal is taking the opportunity to influence the next generation of the party.
“It’s hard to envision who the next Obama might be,” Goidel said. “On the Republican side, it’s kind of a free-for-all.”
Right now, Goidel said, the national Republican Party is without a leader, although vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has a leg up on the competition.
The trick will be to appeal to the right of the Republican Party, which feels morals are in decline, while also appealing to young people who might be more expansive on issues, he said.
Roemer, who was one of the state’s Republican delegates in 2008, said the party needs to reach women, youths and Hispanics.
“America is a lot of things. It’s an amalgamation of people. Three or four segments were apparently missed,” Roemer said.