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Jindal May Be the Answer to Romney's VP Question

By Scott Conroy - May 11, 2012

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Barbour, who considered a presidential bid last year and remains one of the most well-connected members of the national Republican establishment, said he had “no idea” whom Romney would pick as his running mate but praised Jindal as “extremely capable” and “genuinely knowledgeable about public policy.”

“Plus he’s a very nice guy -- pretty family and a good person,” Barbour said. “He’s just got a tremendous capacity.”

Barbour was one of several Republicans interviewed for this story who downplayed apprehensions about Jindal’s communications skills -- concerns that continue to simmer as Romney’s eventual running mate will be called upon to inject new energy into his campaign.

“I remember people saying in 1992 about Bill Clinton, ‘The only thing anybody really knows him for is that terrible speech he made at the Democratic convention in 1988,’ ” Barbour said. “That didn’t turn out to be the only thing they knew about him. The same’s true with Bobby.”

An All-American Story

Jindal’s politically potent recipe of rare intellectual capacity, driving ambition, and disarming humility have won him admirers in Washington since his late-adolescence.

Former Louisiana Congressman Jim McCrery still recalls the day more than 20 years ago when a summer intern who called himself Bobby walked into his office and stood with his hands folded politely in front of him.

McCrery remembered the Brown University undergraduate from the impressive application that he had submitted the previous spring.

Almost all of the congressman’s interns were the sons and daughters of major supporters from his northwestern Louisiana district. Jindal, by contrast, was from outside the district in Baton Rouge and lacked politically relevant family ties.

What he did have was a desire to stand out.

“Congressman, I really appreciate the opportunity to be here in Washington and to be one of your interns,” McCrery recalled Jindal saying. “For the last few days, I’ve been in the back of the office doing the filing and sorting and all of those things, and I don’t mind doing that, but I was just wondering, while I’m here, if you could give me an assignment.”

Impressed with the intern’s pluck but skeptical of his earnestness, McCrery replied with a challenging task for the bright-eyed young man -- who had not yet reached the legal drinking age -- to complete during his free hours: “Write a paper on Medicare and how you solve it.”

Jindal thanked the congressman and said that he would get right on it. Two weeks later, the eager intern plopped down a fat document on the lawmaker’s desk.

“I read it, and it was excellent,” McCrery said. “For him to grasp as well as he did the Medicare program in such a short period of time was nothing short of amazing. It was an early indicator of how far this young man might go in life.”

As the counterweight to a presidential nominee blessed with wealth and privilege, Jindal’s stirring life story as the child of Indian immigrants -- who bestowed upon himself at the age of 4 the all-American name of the youngest son in “The Brady Bunch” -- could be especially appealing.

A Rhodes scholar who helmed the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals -- the state’s largest agency -- at the almost absurd age of 24, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal’s aptitude and credentials for the nation’s second-highest office would be difficult for anyone to question seriously.

Like Jindal, Romney was an academic overachiever who may never have been the life of the party but was the kind of kid that moms hoped their daughters would bring home one day, and the two men are similar in mind-set and temperament.

Though he does not share Romney’s decades of business experience, Jindal did have a brief post-collegiate stint working as a business consultant at McKinsey & Company before entering politics, and he shares the Bain Capital co-founder’s hyper-analytical approach to governing.

Unlike Romney, who faced likely defeat in Massachusetts had he chosen to run for a second term, Jindal has remained overwhelmingly popular in his home state. In October of last year, he was re-elected with a whopping 66 percent of the vote in Louisiana’s nonpartisan blanket primary system.

Asked on Wednesday about the top priority for his second term in Baton Rouge, which began in January, Jindal had a simple answer: education reform. And then he spent the next nine minutes (in an interview scheduled to last 10) describing in detail the legislation he pushed through last month to overhaul teacher tenure, expand access to charter schools, and create a coordinated early childhood education system in his state.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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