There are short- and long-term political benefits for Jindal. In the immediate future, his chief concern is increasing his visibility and making a favorable impression on his party’s activist base. By using his platform as governor to thrust himself into the stimulus debate, Jindal has won national attention he wouldn’t ordinarily receive as governor. And right now, there’s little the G.O.P. base hates more than the stimulus package.
Looking further down the road, Jindal is also potentially equipping himself with a valuable calling card—an anecdote he can relate in interviews, speeches, and debates as 2012 approaches. You can almost picture the Jindal mailers hitting Council Bluffs sometime in December 2011, with one of the bullet points reminding Republicans that “Governor Jindal had the courage to take Barack Obama’s check and tear it up.” (Of course, if the economy is strong by then, Jindal may not be so eager to remind voters that he opposed the stimulus, although this isn’t as much of a risk among just Republicans.)