October 21, 2003


Bobby Jindal's Rise: Louisiana's next governor may be an Indian-American Republican. (John Fund, October 9, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

The young Mr. Jindal faced enormous skepticism that a person with dark skin could succeed in Louisiana, a state in which David Duke was the runner-up for governor just a dozen years ago. Indeed, when state Rep. Jay Blossman dropped out of the race last month, he endorsed another Republican with a reference to Mr. Jindal's ethnic background: "It's unfortunate, but it is a fact, that Jindal has no chance of winning a runoff."

But the candidate has already confounded experts who predicted he would never make it past the primary. "What he's done so far has been amazing," says Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. Mr. Jindal scored points by touting his political inexperience: "I'm not a politician, I'm a problem solver." His impressive machine-gun like recitations of how he would shake up state government and attract industry became the highlight of candidate debates.

He treats his Indian background as an overall plus but won't trade on it. He left the space for "race" on his qualifying papers blank and attacks the division of people along racial lines. "I'm against all quotas, all set-asides," he says. "America is the greatest. We got ahead by hard work. We shouldn't respond to every problem with a government program. Here, anyone can succeed."

Mr. Jindal certainly has. He was born in Baton Rouge in 1971, shortly after his parents moved to the U.S. His father took a job as an engineer at Exxon so that Bobby's mother could earn a degree in nuclear physics at Louisiana State University. At the age of four he dropped "Piyush" as his first name in favor or "Bobby" after a character on "The Brady Bunch." He was raised a Hindu but converted to Catholicism at Brown University. He was admitted to medical school but dropped plans to be a doctor after winning a Rhodes Scholarship. His academic background in health-care administration impressed Gov. Mike Foster, who named him to head the state's $4 billion Department of Health and Hospitals. Mr. Jindal imposed budget discipline and rooted out so much fraud that he was able to turn the state's $400 million Medicaid deficit into a surplus.

Seems wildly overqualified to be a governor of LA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 21, 2003 12:25 AM

I am very, very suspicious of a Brown University graduate. hmmm... Colgate graduates etc. also

Posted by: h-man at October 21, 2003 5:40 AM

Bobby Jindal may have been educated in the rust belt, but he's definitely a New Southerner.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at October 21, 2003 6:38 AM

Mr. Judd:

My husband is from New Orleans. Not many people are over qualified to deal with the swamp that is LA politics.

Posted by: Buttercup at October 21, 2003 6:52 AM

Cynical me always thought the main qualification for Louisiana politics was a desire for cash.

Okay, this Jindal guy looks promising. Don't want to sound too snobbish.

Posted by: Casey Abell at October 21, 2003 8:15 AM

Buttercup: My family's from all over that state; for the record, it's at least possible to be too honest.

Casey: Don't second-guess yourself.

Posted by: Chris at October 21, 2003 10:46 AM