Rumor of the day: Jindal to challenge Vitter for Louisiana senate seat?

So says lefty political analyst John Heilemann, sowing the seeds of Republican discord. It’s the Palin/Murkowski scenario all over again!

I was down in New Orleans, and I heard a great rumor that Bobby Jindal, who we were just talking about as a potential presidential candidate for the Republican party, is thinking about giving up the governorship and running for Senate against David Vitter, or for Vitter’s seat if Vitter doesn’t run. He’s got a terrible budget situation down there. He’s thrown himself into a Republican primary up in Baton Rouge that he’s going to apparently get creamed in. And I think what’s interesting is that that tells you that he’s got the message that 2012 isn’t his year.

The idea, I guess, is that Vitter’s so tarnished by the prostitution scandal that he’s ripe for the picking by Democrats, in which case the GOP needs a white knight to ride into the primary and bump him off first. Minor problem with that theory: He’s not as vulnerable as you’d think. Not only is he sitting on a war chest of more than $2 million but a serious Democratic challenger has yet to emerge. In which case, a scorched-earth primary between him and Jindal runs the risk of actually weakening the winner and increasing the odds of the seat flipping. Beyond that, why would Jindal give up the governorship and chance being left without an office if he challenges Vitter and loses? He’s already been a congressman, and Mary Landrieu, the state’s other senator, isn’t up for reelection again until 2014. There’s nowhere for him to go. If he’s thinking about a presidential bid in 2016, he’ll need some sort of prominent position to serve as his launching pad. Why gamble away the one he’s got for one he might not get? If he wanted an easier time of things by hiding away in the Senate, he could have gone after Landrieu last year.

Exit hypothetical: Jindal jumps in, slugs it out with Vitter in the primary, and a bloodied winner staggers on to the general. The Democratic nominee turns out to be weak and the race is in flux for months. Then, a la Jesse Ventura, an exciting upstart declares her candidacy, energizing the race with a third-party bid. It goes down to the wire and … voila. Senator Stormy!