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The case for Bobby Jindal to be vice president

at 11:07 AM ET, 07/18/2012

With the Republican National Convention now only 40 days off, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appears to be moving into the final stages of picking his vice presidential nominee — with some people even speculating that the announcement could come as soon as this week.

While we remain skeptical that Romney will make the pick any time before mid-August, there are signs that the process is nearing its conclusion.

Reuters’ Steve Holland reported on Tuesday that the Romney short list is down to Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.), Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) and former governor Tim Pawlenty (Minn.). And, the Romney campaign announced this week that it has hired Randy Bumps and Kevin Sheridan to serve as senior staffers to the vice presidential nominee whenever he (or she) is picked.

Given those signs as well as the (relatively) narrow time frame left for Romney, we thought now was the right time to begin making our cases for and against the most likely vice presidential picks.

We kick it all off today by making the case for Jindal. Tomorrow we’ll make the case against him.

* History recognize history: One of the major problems for Republicans in 2008 was that they were running against history. Then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was the first African American presidential nominee for either party, and the chance to elect the country’s first black president clearly had an emotional and symbolic pull on many voters that Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) was simply unable to combat.

McCain and his team tried to match history against history by picking former Alaska governor Sarah Palin — she was the first Republican woman on a national ticket — but it blew up in their faces (to put it kindly).

Picking Jindal would allow Republicans a historic do-over; he would be the first Indian-American on either parties’ national ticket and, unlike Palin, is much more of a known commodity — and hence less of a risk.

If you want to know how powerful a historic vice presidential pick can be — and how it can drive a positive storyline for days (or even weeks) in the campaign — look no further than when Al Gore chose Joe Lieberman as the first Jewish vice presidential pick in 2000.

There’s also this x-factor: The Indian-American community can be a major source of campaign cash if they are activated to give. Picking Jindal as VP would ensure huge buy-in — figuratively and literally — from this community.

* Flashy...enough: Jindal isn’t oozing charisma like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. But neither is he labeled as a vanilla pol in the way that Portman and Pawlenty have been cast.

Jindal wouldn’t likely overshadow Romney — as Christie and Rubio clearly would — but neither would he be lumped in with the “boring white guy” pick that might not get Romney the sort of bump he is looking for.

There are other ways where Jindal is a sort of middle-of-the-road pick too. His resume — he spent several terms in Congress before being elected governor in 2007 — allows Romney to pick someone who knows how the levers of power work in Washington but who has largely built his reputation outside of the nation’s capitol. He’s an insider’s outsider. Or an outsider’s insider. Whatever. You get the point.

Remember that the first rule of vice presidential picking is “Above all, do no harm”. That means that a sort of “warm porridge” guy (he’s not to hot or too cold) like Jindal could have real appeal to Romney.

* A reform record: In his four-plus years in office, Jindal has built a very impressive record that would fit nicely with Romney’s promises to bring conservative principles to the federal government.

Jindal’s top priority coming into office was ethics reform — political corruption is as common as good beignets in Louisiana — and he got it done quickly. Jindal has also pushed hard to reform the state's education system, an effort that won him praise from none other than the Wall Street Journal op-ed page. (Make sure to read HuffPo’s Jon Ward on Jindal’s impressive record.)

While Jindal’s aggressiveness in pushing through his agenda has made him his fair share of political enemies (Democratic operatives in the state loathe him), it has only bolstered his image with voters. Jindal was overwhelmingly reelected last fall and remains quite popular even in these lean fiscal times.

* Super wonk: While Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan gets credit within the Republican party as their wonkiest national voice, Jindal has a case to make that he actually deserves that title. This is someone who was running the Louisiana department of health and human services at 25 and two years later was appointed the executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare.

If Romney wants to prove that he is serious about repealing President Obama’s health care law and replacing it with a more conservative approach, there is no one on the Republican side — with the possible exception of Romney himself — who knows the issue better than Jindal.

Picking someone with widely regarded policy chops like Jindal would also allow Romney to make the argument that he made a governing choice not a political choice in his vice presidential nominee — a sign that he is ready, willing and able to step into the office and do the job on day one.

* Fresh face: The Republican professional class knows that the stereotype of the party as a bunch of old white guys is terrible for them — and has to change.

Picking Jindal would address much of that criticism. Not only is he Indian American but he is also just 41 years old — more in Barack Obama’s generation than Mitt Romney’s.

With Jindal as the vice presidential nominee, Republicans would not only get the White House if Romney won but would also have a presidential nominee in waiting after four or eight years. Building that next generation of leaders — particularly those who are not white men — is of critical importance for Republicans’ long term political prospects. Naming Jindal could go a long way to solving their image problems going forward.

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