Gov. Bobby Jindal went to Disney World over the weekend, but not for the usual reasons.
It wasn’t a getaway from the busy political season back home in Louisiana. Instead, it was essentially a business trip, the type that doesn’t concern Jindal’s job but someone else’s — nominally speaking, anyway.
This time, Jindal’s stated goal was to campaign with Florida Gov. Rick Scott for his tough re-election contest in November and to rally the party faithful at the state GOP’s “Victory Dinner,” held at the Grand Floridian Resort just outside the Magic Kingdom.
“This election is too important for the people of Florida, it is too important for our country, to take this for granted,” Jindal told Scott supporters outside the event, according to local press reports.
That’s about as much as he’s said about the elections in his own state, which, despite his stature as Louisiana’s highest-ranking politician, he’s basically sitting out.
They include one of the country’s marquee U.S. Senate races, one that could well tilt the balance of power in Congress — and would therefore, to the naked eye, seem at least as “important for our country” as Florida’s governorship. They also include two big House races, one an open seat and one with an incumbent so compromised that it’s the next best thing.
Not that anyone on the campaign trail here at home seems to miss him.
U.S. Rep. and GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy is touting endorsements from Republican celebrities such as Dr. Ben Carson and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, as well as U.S. Sen. David Vitter (former Vitter aide Joel DiGrado has been running Cassidy’s campaign ever since the candidate parted ways with Jindal’s top political guru, Timmy Teepell, early on). Cassidy’s tea party rival Rob Maness talks about having former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin in his corner. But the only candidate in that race who likes to invoke Jindal’s name is the Democrat, incumbent Mary Landrieu — and not in a good way.
Over in the Baton Rouge-based 6th Congressional District, basically Jindal’s home turf, his absence is equally conspicuous. This despite the fact that the large field includes a former top aide, Garret Graves, a legislative ally, Lenar Whitney, and Dan Claitor, who first exposed Jindal’s soft political underbelly went he trounced the governor’s hand-picked candidate in a 2009 special election for state Senate. Here too, the only one who regularly references the governor is the man who used to hold his job, Democrat Edwin Edwards, and he tends to use the governor as a punchline.
Jindal did weigh in on the 5th District field — not before a local crowd but under questioning from a national reporter in Iowa — when he labeled so-called “Kissing Congressman” Vance McAllister’s re-election bid an “embarrassment.” Jindal’s attitude probably has as much to do with the fact that McAllister beat Jindal’s preferred (but not formally endorsed) candidate in last year’s special election as it does with his on-camera smooch with a top aide. No matter the reason, McAllister is wearing the governor’s professed scorn as a badge of honor.
“Tell the governor I said, ‘Thank you,’ ” McAllister said. “If the governor actually spent time in Louisiana listening to the concerns of his voters rather than those of the voters in Iowa, he would better serve the people of Louisiana.”
Unlike this fall’s races, Jindal actually is a topic of conversation in early jockeying for next year’s governor’s campaign. The candidates — not just Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards but Republicans Vitter and Lt. Gov Jay Dardenne — are emphasizing how different their approaches would be on issues ranging from education and taxes to funding colleges, universities and hospitals, not to mention the fact that their ambitions are focused on Baton Rouge rather than Washington.
If any of this bothers Jindal, he’s not letting it show. The governor figured out a long time ago that he plays well on the road and that campaigning for other politicians in other states is an awfully good way to make an impression himself.
Still, you’ve got to wonder as Jindal spends more and more time in presidential early primary and general election battleground states. Do the people there ever notice that fellow Republicans back in Louisiana don’t share their enthusiasm?
And do they ever stop to wonder why?