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Bobby Jindal not ready to endorse David Vitter for governor

Back in 2012, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) appeared together as they received an update on the status of the pumping station in Metairie, prior to the landfall of Hurricane Isaac. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Three weeks before Louisiana voters decide who will replace Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.), the outgoing Republican is offering no advice on who to support.

"I respect the judgement of the voters of Louisiana," Jindal told the Guardian's Ben Jacobs after the GOP presidential debate on Wednesday. "I look forward to watching the runoff, and I look forward to seeing which candidates will commit to continuing the policies that have worked for Louisiana."

In other words, Jindal would not tell Louisiana voters to back the Republican nominee, Sen. David Vitter. In 49 other states, this might be unexpected. In Louisiana and Jindal have feuded for years, it's the latest phase of a bitter, frustrated dispute between two ambitious Republicans. Jindal became governor in 2007, in the wake of a prostitution scandal that briefly damaged Vitter, and refused to endorse the senator's 2010 reelection bid. As the New Orleans Times Picayune's Julia O'Donoghue has pointed out, Vitter only endorsed Jindal's 2011 reelection while criticizing the would-be presidential candidate's travel schedule.

In the spin room, Jindal took several velvet-gloved whacks at the man who is struggling to hold the governor's office for the GOP. Jindal noted that he had "won two landslide elections," a silent comment on how Vitter managed to scrape into the November runoff with only 23 percent of the primary vote.

"I think folks make too much of a deal of politicians endorsing or not endorsing," Jindal said. "The voters are going to decide, and that's how it should be. … He can make his own decisions about the race he wants to run. So can his opponent."

Vitter has not exactly sought out Jindal's support. The governor's own approval rating has been subterranean for most of 2015; in the primary, even the non-Vitter Republican candidates scored easy points by criticizing Jindal.

But Jindal was happy to defend his record. When The Washington Post asked about Vitter's latest ad -- a criticism of prison reform that warns of "dangerous thugs" being let onto the streets -- Jindal declined to endorse the message.

"I haven't seen his ad, but I'll tell you what I think of prison reform," he said. "What we've done in Louisiana, what we've said is that for non-violent drug offenders, it can make sense for them get rehabilitation instead of jail. There are cases where that makes more sense for first-time offenders. I'm not talking about the kingpins or hardened criminals. I know that Rep. Edwards have gone beyond this, but I haven't see the ad. I'd just say that for small-time drug offenders, sometimes it's worth just trying rehabilitation."