A good number of folks who've been talking up Gov. Bobby Jindal's presidential chances are now defending his anodyne performance last night by pointing out, correctly, that Jindal is smart, serious and talented, and that there's no evidence that a panned SOTU (or budget speech) response will make or break a career. (Come to think of it, Bill Clinton wasn't punished for his famously long-winded 1988 Democratic convention speech.) They're just too artificial -- a man or woman, standing in an empty, artificially lit room, trying to tie several knots at once. Fine. Jindal's buzz shouldn't really go down much among Beltway insiders. As I noted yesterday, he is not charistmatic, and this format is not his best. Formal speech responses are quaint in an era of instantaneous communication.
The fundamentals of Bobby Jindal remain the same. Let's list them: he's young. He's not a white WASP. He's a Catholic convert. He seems to be a creationist. He has acquired a following among conservative intellectuals. Yes, that really is his accent. (Though you won't find many of them in the Obama administration, Southern accents still exist!) Jindal anglicized his name. He has unorthodox ideas on health care. He appears to be incorruptible. He is very, very socially conservative at a time when swing voters in this country seem to be going in a different direction. Not too long ago, he participated in what appears to be an exorcism -- now, before y'all get up in my grill, this is just going to strike a lot Republicans (even) as weird and deserving of an explanantion, so I'm not going to ignore it. (I do, however, agree with National Review's Jim Geraghty: there's going to be plenty of time to figure this out, and more Americans are "wondering whether we can exorcise the toxic subprime mortgage derivatives from the banks.")
Politicians use charisma -- call it authentic presence -- to cover up their human quirks. Luckily for Jindal, other WH 2012 or 2016 contenders (and remember, Jindal's said he's not running for president in 2012, although, as with our current president, voters don't seem to care wabout these promises), aren't terribly charismatic either, aside from Ex-MA Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has a tenuous relationship to certain parts of the Republican base. The good news for Jindal is that expectations have been lowered a bit, and if you believe him to be serious about not running until at least 2016, not a thing has happened to change his prospects.
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