Bobby Jindal vs. Obamacare
The Supreme Court’s health-care ruling has been very good for one politician: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).
In conference calls and public appearances, Jindal has become the most prominent Republican critic of Obamacare. That could make him a powerful surrogate for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
On Friday, Jindal warned that the government could soon force Americans to eat tofu and drive hybrid cars. He said his state would not implement the health-care law; instead he would work to elect Romney and have the law repealed. “Elections do, in fact, matter,” Jindal said. “This one matters a lot.”
It’s a role for which he’s uniquely suited.
Jindal became secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in 1996, at the ripe old age of 24. He turned a $400 million deficit into a multi-year surplus. Two years later, he was appointed executive director of a bipartisan commission on the future of Medicare. In 2001, President George W. Bush made Jindal assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services
Even before the health-care ruling, Jindal was getting some VP buzz.
He’s favored by social conservatives (the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins suggested him) and anti-tax advocates (Grover Norquist is a fan too). When asked in June whether he was being vetted by the Romney campaign, he avoided answering.
A couple caveats are worth highlighting.
One: Jindal’s (still) not a perfect public speaker. Over the weekend, Jindal accidentally called the health-care law’s author “Obamney,” an insult Romney’s rivals used in the primaries to argue that the Affordable Care Act was based on Massachusetts’ law. Then he made an awkward comparison between health care policy and Mardi Gras.
Two: the economy, not health care, is still the overwhelming focus of this election and the subject Romney would like to talk about above all else. While Jindal may be a useful surrogate for the next few days, his star could easily fade by the fall.
Jindal skeptics will also note that he took part in an exorcism in college, an experience that would surely get new scrutiny should he be tapped for the GOP ticket.
But for many casual political observers, Jindal is still defined by his disastrous response to Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress. The past few days have given him a chance to redeem himself — whether it leads to a VP nod or not.