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Spotlight to Shine Again on Jindal, Perhaps Briefly

By Chris Cillizza
Monday, July 20, 2009

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is preparing to reemerge on the national stage -- with a focus on health care -- by penning op-eds this week outlining his reform ideas and appearing on cable television shows Monday and Tuesday, including a Fox News Channel appearance alongside conservative commentator Sean Hannity.

"Governor Jindal has seen enough," said Curt Anderson, a consultant for Jindal (R). "As a health-care policy expert, he strongly believes that the House Democrat plan would be a disaster for the long-term health of the American people and the long-term health of the economy."

Jindal, who was elected governor in 2007, is regarded as one of the GOP's rising stars and a policy wonk -- having spent his 20s and early 30s focused on health care.

At 24, Jindal was named head of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals by then-Gov. Mike Foster (R); three years later he was picked as executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. Jindal went on to serve as assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Bush administration before running unsuccessfully for governor in 2003 and successfully for the House in 2004. In 2007, he was elected governor.

Jindal's allies insist that now is the time for him to step back onto the national stage with the legislative session in Louisiana behind him and the health-care debate heating up in Washington.

Political observers less favorably inclined toward Jindal will probably see his emergence as an attempt to reshape the negative national narrative surrounding him in the wake of the poorly received speech delivered in response to President Obama's address to Congress in February.

His emergence is certain to reignite chatter about his presidential prospects in 2012.

The Fix sees such a run as far-fetched. First, Jindal's debut on the national stage was shaky (at best) and even his strongest allies admit he may need more seasoning. Second, it is a logistical impossibility that Jindal can campaign for a second term in Louisiana while cultivating the network of supporters he would need to compete in places such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

Allan Crow, a Democratic media consultant based in Atlanta, put it simply: "The only way [Jindal] can run in 2012 is to have no opposition for governor in 2011 or decide not to run for reelection."

At 38 years old, however, Jindal can wait until the political landscape is just right. He'll be just 44 when the 2016 Iowa caucus rolls around.

Wielding Power

The Republican Party is, in the words of one smart GOP operative, a chorus of voices without a soloist. As such, certain voices rise and others fall.

Those stepping into the front row of the choir of late include Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Voices that have quieted in recent months include those of former vice president Richard B. Cheney, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele.

Who are the GOP leaders with the most influence over the party's message as politicos turn their attention toward the 2010 midterms? The Fix's top five are below (and there's always more at http://washingtonpost.com/thefix):

5. Haley Barbour: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's implosion installed Mississippi Gov. Barbour as chairman of the Republican Governors Association about six months earlier than had been planned. That's a good thing for the candidates in Virginia and New Jersey who will benefit from Barbour's strategic know-how. Barbour would almost certainly be ranked higher if he were not considering a run for president in 2012. He is more powerful as a kingmaker than as a candidate.

4. Bob McDonnell: The party's nominee in the Virginia governor's race this fall has an even-money (or slightly better) chance of taking the seat back for Republicans -- a win that, if it comes to pass, will be painted as a national referendum on Obama's presidency.

3. Chris Christie: The more we look at the New Jersey gubernatorial race, the more convinced we become that Christie, a former U.S. attorney, is going to beat Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine. Now, campaigns matter and there is still time for Corzine to make up ground, but he hasn't yet. A Republican win in true-blue New Jersey would turn Christie into a national figure in much the same way that Christie Todd Whitman's victory in the Garden State in 1993 established her as a national player. Christie appears to sense the opportunity to be the GOP's moderate voice; he came out in favor of Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation Friday.

2. Sarah Palin: The Fix struggles mightily to wrap arms around what Palin means in the party, what she plans to do with her political future and how seriously she needs to be taken. On the one hand, her July 3 resignation seemed impetuous and her speech was the sort of stream-of-consciousness ramble that is not advisable for any politician. But she raised $733,000 for her Sarah PAC in the first six months of 2009 despite having no organization and with the dominant narrative being her chaotic personal and professional life. We decided to rank Palin high for one reason: Is there any other Republican who would be a favorite in two -- Iowa and South Carolina -- of the first four states to vote in presidential primaries?

1. Mitt Romney: The 2008 presidential candidate is the GOP's most complete package. His recent fundraising report -- which shows he collected $1.6 million in the first six months of 2009 and doled it out to states such as New Hampshire and South Carolina -- makes clear he is running for president again. (We never doubted it.) And he continues to do the policy-centric things -- op-eds, appearances on Sunday talk shows -- to keep him on the leading edge of the issue debate.

Players

Close watchers of the weekend's British Open saw Neil Oxman, a face familiar to many political junkies. Oxman, whose day job is as a Democratic media consultant with the Philadelphia-based Campaign Group, caddied for runner-up Tom Watson. Oxman met Watson, a five-time British Open winner, in 1972, when the former was caddying while attending Duquesne University law school and the latter was in his first year on the PGA Tour. Oxman has been Watson's caddy full time since 2003, when Watson's longtime bagman Bruce Edwards was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.

3 DAYS: President Obama holds two fundraisers in Chicago to benefit the Democratic National Committee -- the first time he has raised cash in the Windy City since being elected president.

6 DAYS: Sarah Palin officially resigns as Alaska governor and begins the rest of her political life.

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