- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday that he won’t publicly back a candidate in the Nov. 21 runoff election to choose his successor.

Jindal, a Republican running for the presidential nomination, said he doesn’t believe “the public cares that much” about one politician endorsing another.

“I think voters can make up their own minds,” he said.

The runoff to replace Jindal, who can’t run for re-election after two terms in office, is between Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards. Jindal and Vitter have had a frosty relationship for years, and Edwards was an active opponent of Jindal’s agendas in the Louisiana Legislature.

The governor hasn’t always weighed in on Louisiana races, and it seems unlikely that either Vitter or Edwards would welcome Jindal’s backing to help them win the office.

Jindal is highly unpopular in Louisiana, and both candidates have run campaigns trying to distance themselves from the governor. Edwards has sought to tie Vitter to Jindal as a point of attack, saying Vitter would represent a “Jindal third term.”

But Jindal rejected suggestions that his lack of popularity in Louisiana has made it tougher for a fellow Republican to win the governor’s office.

He recounted recent GOP wins: Republican Bill Cassidy defeating Democrat Mary Landrieu in the U.S. Senate race last year, Republican majorities assured in the state House and state Senate when the new term begins in January and GOP candidates winning re-election to several statewide seats.

“If Sen. Vitter’s facing challenges in his race, those are due to other issues,” Jindal said.

Once the front-runner to follow Jindal into office, Vitter now lags Edwards in recent polling. Vitter’s fallen behind amid continuing talk of his 2007 prostitution scandal, a blistering primary battle with two GOP rivals and allegations that a private investigator working for his campaign secretly filmed the Jefferson Parish sheriff and others.

Asked why he thought Vitter was lagging Edwards, Jindal replied: “You don’t need me to play pundit. I know a lot of people have speculated on the other issues impacting that race. My point is the Republican brand is doing very well. Republican candidates have done very well up and down the ticket in Louisiana.”

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