Our next presidential election in the United States will be in 2012, as we all know. President Obama will, obviously, be the candidate for the Democrats. And we know some of the Republican candidates lining up to run against him.
But looking ahead four years after that, to the 2016 presidential election, the list of names becomes more about political speculation. Still, there are some people even now that are generally agreed to be front runners.
On the Republican side of the political aisle Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, is the name that first comes to everyone’s mind. He was considered an outside possibility as a candidate for the 2012 election, but his chances seem better for a run in 2016.
Born Piyush Amrit Jindal on June 10th, 1971 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he is the son of immigrant parents who came to this country from Punjab, India. He was raised in the Hindu tradition by his parents but converted to Catholicism during high school. He married his wife, Supriya, also an immigrant from India, in 1997. They have three children together. The family is very active in the community. They attend weekly mass in Baton Rouge, and Supriya has created the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana Children which aims to improve math and science education in the state’s schools.
After working as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies with the prestigious global consulting firm of McKinsey and Company, Jindal went into a life in politics. Louisiana Governor Mike Foster appointed Bobby Jindal as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in 1996, just two years after Jindal obtained a postgraduate degree in political science from Oxford University. While holding this post he was credited with saving Louisiana’s welfare system from bankruptcy, bringing it from being deeply in the red to being able to maintain a surplus. His achievements earned him the nomination of President George W. Bush for the post of Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation in 2001, for which he was unanimously confirmed.
Jindal resigned from this post in 2003 to run for Governor of his home state. He lost this first bid for the position of Governor. He then ran for Congress in Louisiana’s first congressional district. He won election to this seat in 2004 with 78 percent of the vote, and was reelected in 2006 with 88 percent. He also served in the senior leadership role of House Assistant Majority Whip during this time.
Jindal ran for Governor of Louisiana a second time in 2007, and in a four-way race he managed to secure 54 percent of the vote. He is the youngest current Governor in the United States and has a high approval rating of 77 percent, according to recent Rasmussen Reports polls.
Jindal has become a popular figure in American politics. With quotes on his blog such as “I will hold the heads of our agencies and universities accountable to living within our means and delivering more value for our people. If they can’t do this, they need to step aside and let someone lead who can. We don’t have time in Louisiana for whining,” (bobbyjindal.com) Jindal has become known as a tough Governor looking out for the people of his state. Ethics in politics was one of the major planks of his election platform. Louisiana’s government website quotes him as saying that Hurricane Katrina “caused people to rethink how they wanted their social institutions to be designed, how they wanted services to be delivered, what kind of state they wanted to call home.” gov.louisiana.gov
Jindal is a success story of a kind reminiscent of the early immigrants who passed through Ellis Island, and similar to that of President Obama’s. However true that Jindal’s heritage may be an advantage to him in this respect, it may also represent a hurdle of sorts, one of several he may face during an election for president. He would be the first ever Indian-American president, just as he is the first non-caucasian Governor of Louisiana. He will face stiff competition from the likes of former Governor and current Chairman of the Democratic National Convention Tim Kaine, and Senator Kay Hagan. Many of Jindal’s successes have been criticized as having come at the cost of jobs. The dramatic turn-around of Louisiana’s Medicaid program in the late 1990s was said by some to have been accomplished by closing clinics, putting people out of work and thus actually making things worse while giving only the appearance of improvement.
Of course all of this is predicated on what may or may not happen in the 2012 election. There are always a variety of roads American politics can, and will, take. In 2016, Jindal will be 44 years old, turning 45 in June of that year. There have only been two other Presidents who were younger at the time they were elected to the office: Presidents John F. Kennedy and Theodore Roosevelt. It remains to be seen if voters will consider his youth an advantage, or a drawback when compared to persons with more years of experience in the political arena.