William Kristol writes today that Bobby Jindal’s time has come for a spot on the national ticket as John McCain’s VP. He says that people from Team McCain have begun floating Jindal’s name, and Kristol believes they have good reason to do so. It gives McCain a youth edge in the event he has to run against Barack Obama:
Another McCain staffer called my attention to this finding in the latest Fox News poll: McCain led Obama in the straight match-up, 46 to 43. Voters were then asked to choose between two tickets, McCain-Romney vs. Obama-Clinton. Obama-Clinton won 47 to 41.
That reversal of a three-point McCain lead to a six-point deficit for the McCain ticket suggests what might happen (a) when the Democrats unite, and (b) if McCain were to choose a conventional running mate, who, as it were, reinforced the Republican brand for the ticket. As the McCain aide put it, this is what will happen if we run a traditional campaign; our numbers will gradually regress toward the (losing) generic Republican number.
Maybe that’s why, in separate conversations last week, no fewer than four McCain staffers and advisers mentioned as a possible vice-presidential pick the 36-year-old Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal. They’re tempted by the idea of picking someone so young, with real accomplishments and a strong reformist streak.
It might also be a way to confront the issue of McCain’s age (71), which private polls and focus groups suggest could be a real problem. A Jindal pick would implicitly acknowledge the questions and raise the ante. The message would be: “You want generational change? You can get it with McCain-Jindal — without risking a liberal and inexperienced Obama as commander in chief.” I would add that it was after McCain spent considerable time with Jindal in New Orleans recently, and reportedly found him, as he has before, personally engaging and intellectually impressive, that the campaign’s informal name-dropping of Jindal began.
Allow me to throw some cold water on this notion. While Jindal does appear to have promise for a national campaign, the man is almost a decade younger than Barack Obama, whose own inexperience has led to a remarkable series of stumbles and gaffes. Jindal has not been tested at all on the national stage, and indeed just took office as Governor a few months ago. Have we not learned from the Obama mess about pushing young talent to the fore too quickly?
One of the main themes the Republicans can use against Obama in the general election is his lack of experience. He only has three years in the Senate, and seven years of mainly undistinguished service in the Illinois legislature. How does Jindal stack up against that? He has three years in the House and three months as Governor. If Republicans want to use experience and leadership as themes in this election, especially in executive positions, the selection of Jindal all but negates them.
McCain has other choices for youth and energy, notably Tim Pawlenty and Mark Sanford, both of whom have two terms as governors of their states. Both men have national stature, and both could reach different parts of the GOP coalition that may elude McCain at the moment. More critically, they both have experience in difficult political battles, and have proven their mettle repeatedly in electoral politics. Jindal could outshine both, but not until he has an opportunity to succeed for at least a full term in Louisiana. Three months of executive experience is three months more than Obama has, but no one will take that as a serious difference in 2008.
Let’s give Jindal an opportunity to build a truly impressive track record before throwing him to the wolves in 2008. Just as it was for Barack Obama, 2008 is too early in Jindal’s career to expose him to the brutal and defining nature of a national campaign.