Jindal Laying the Groundwork for 2016

Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013 02:32 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Political observers say Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is testing the waters for a possible 2016 presidential bid by making far bolder policy proposals in his second term.

According to Politico, the 41-year-old Republican has moved from the ethics reform package and a workforce development program he championed during his first term to passing a school voucher plan, rejecting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, and proposing the elimination of the state income tax in his second term.

“There's an overriding sense among insiders here . . . that most of the higher-profile initiatives that he’s embarking on here are all with the national audience in mind,” Bob Mann, an aide to former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco and former Democratic Sen. John Breaux, both of Louisiana, told the news organization.

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Jindal’s supporters maintain his controversial policy initiatives are a reflection of the fact that he was re-elected to a second term in 2011 with two-thirds of the vote and feels he is better able to take risks, despite a recent poll giving him one of the worst approval ratings of any governor in the country.

“By any objective measure, Gov. Jindal has set the standard for policy accomplishments from the perspective of a forward-thinking conservative,” Phil Musser, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, told Politico.

Still, critics say his plan to scrap the state income tax and replace the revenue by raising the sales tax would hit the poor the hardest, and that his decision to reject the Medicaid expansion will mean a loss of health coverage for hundreds of thousands of poor residents.

In addition, state courts ruled last year that parts of both pieces of his education legislation — the diversion of public-school funds to provide vouchers to private schools and the way in which school superintendents are involved in school board decisions — are unconstitutional.

The criticism and the court decision have adversely affected Jindal’s standing in Louisiana and affect any plans he might have for the 2016 race. A Public Policy Polling survey last week found that only 37 percent of state voters approve of the job he is doing, while 57 percent disapprove.

That's in sharp contrast to numbers in August 2010, when 58 percent of state voters approved of Jindal, while 34 percent disapproved.

“You can't say Jindal is extremely popular in Louisiana any longer, but you also have to give him credit because some of the stuff he's done is very popular with [Republican] voters,” veteran Louisiana pollster Bernie Pinsonat told Politico.

Meanwhile, Jindal is also boosting his national profile as the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association, a position that could help spread his message of common sense conservatism to a wider national audience, especially Republicans looking to change their party's approach to the 2016 presidential race.

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“The Republican Party nationally is looking for leadership, and I’m happy our governor is providing that leadership,” said Jason Dore, executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party.

Jindal gave a hint of what that leadership might involve during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting last month, when he said the GOP has to “stop being the stupid party” and allowing extreme candidates to inflict “damage to the brand” if it expects to succeed in future elections.

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