Bobby Jindal, Rhodes scholar, conservative intellectual and Louisiana governor, travels this weekend to Lynchburg, Va.-based Liberty University, to give a commencement address at the conservative Christian school founded by the late Jerry Falwell.
The visit is part of an increasingly crowded travel schedule for the Louisiana politician, who is eyeing a 2016 presidential bid. Jindal was in Washington last month talking about his own prescription for health-care reform -- starting with repeal of Obamacare.
He insists that Republicans need to offer substantive ideas to counter the Democratic initiatives they complain about. Jindal has formed a new think tank, America Next, to support and distribute those ideas, including prescriptions for new national energy and education policies.
Jindal is also trying to establish an emotional connection with a core group of GOP voters around his conversion to Christianity and his belief in religious freedom. He gave a speech at the Reagan Library a few months ago stating that religious values are under attack in the United States. That is likely to be the theme of his Liberty address, which supporters expect to be broadcast, at least in part, by C-SPAN and by Christian broadcast outlets.
Influential pastors from South Carolina and Iowa are attending the event this weekend and will meet privately with Jindal, according to people familiar with Jindal's schedule. Some of the pastors have committed in the past to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who is also considering a 2016 race.
When asked by reporters recently whether he is running for president, Jindal answered, "I don’t know." But his schedule suggests otherwise. He headlines an Iowa Republican party fundraiser on June 13. He has been the keynote speaker at state party dinners in Minnesota (in February), in Indiana (in March) and was one of several would-be presidential candidates speaking to the National Rifle Association convention last month. He has also made visits to the party's fundraising capitals -- including a trip to Las Vegas and five separate visits this year alone to New York City where he is becoming increasingly well-acquainted with GOP donors.
In June, he delivers the keynote speech to an annual conference led by Ralph Reed, who heads the Faith & Freedom Coalition. That invitation, like the one at Liberty University this weekend, is one of many that came to the governor after his speech at the Reagan Library called out what he described as “war on religious liberty.” The speech, from a man who converted to Christianity from Hinduism in high school, brought acclaim from the right.
"This war is waged in our courts and in the halls of political power. It is pursued with grim and relentless determination by a group of like-minded elites, determined to transform the country from a land sustained by faith — into a land where faith is silenced, privatized, and circumscribed," he said.
His examples include court cases in which corporations are compelled to follow rules that they oppose philosophically. He cited cases such as that of the Hobby Lobby stores that made an appeal to the Supreme Court. The firm and others like it complained that the new health-care law, which stipulates that employers need to cover all forms of contraception at no cost, was requiring them to pay for services that conflict with their beliefs.