Updated: Jindal Vs Vitter? Don’t Bet On It

April 11, 2009

Updated: What I laid out below now seems official.

BATON ROUGE — No, Gov. Bobby Jindal is not going to run for a U.S. senate seat next year, the governor's office said Saturday in response to a television news report.

Given some speculation that LA Governor Bobby Jindal might consider taking on Vitter for his Senate seat, I reached out to some sources to try and understand what might actually be going on.

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.

At this point it looks very much like a Democrat-fueled piece of erroneous speculation meant only to stir the pot while distracting from their own serious weakness in the state. Naturally, John Heilemann and Chris Matthews are only too happy to play along.

Not only is Vitter looking as though he has regained his footing according to CQ Politics -  fairly or not, Jindal has been accused of job hopping by past critics and the LA Governor's slot is a powerful one, given Jindal's ability to use the line item veto and appoint the State's House Speaker and Senate President regardless of which party is in control. Point being, if he were to bail on the governorship without bringing about much promised reforms, it would be difficult for Jindal to make the argument he could genuinely be effective anywhere else.

Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat said Vitter’s efforts have resonated with Louisiana’s electorate. According to Pinsonat, the massive spending bills moving through Congress since Obama took office Jan. 20 are fodder for Vitter, as he revives the image of a conservative firebrand that he cultivated during stints in the Louisiana House from 1992 to 1999 and the U.S. House from 1999 through 2004.

Jeff Crouere, a conservative political commentator and host of the New Orleans radio talk show Ringside Politics, said timing may be working in Vitter’s favor, too. “Vitter benefited from having the scandal occur in the middle of his term,” Crouere said. “Every day since then, he’s been trying to improve his image.”

Also, as if that weren't enough, Jindal has helped raise serious money for Vitter post-controversy; has consistently maintained his desire to run again for the governorship he's held for less than two years; and Jindal has also raised over $3 million for himself that would be non-transferable in any alleged Senate race.

Bottom line, it looks very much like a bit of unsubstantiated gossip gined up by Democrat operatives interested in weakening both Vitter and Jindal if they can to cover for their own sorry state of affairs in LA. If anything, the story suggests LSU professor and former Blanco Communications Director Bob Mann is right:

"The Democrats have nobody," Mann said. "I've never seen the Democratic Party this unorganized and poorly led. It's like there's been a unilateral disarmament – no message, no coherence."

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