Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bobby Jindal‘s victory in the Louisiana gubernatorial race is emblematic of the new blood his Republican Party needs to get on track toward victory in 2008. Young, sharp, conservative, religious and the son of immigrants, Mr. Jindal is just the sort of candidate the GOP needs to recruit in droves.

With 53 percent of the vote, Mr. Jindal beat 11 runoff opponents, with his nearest competitor, Democrat Walter Boasso, scraping up a meager 18 percent. Because he captured more than 50 percent of the vote, Mr. Jindal avoids spending the time and money consumed by a general election. His historic win marks the first time that a Louisiana candidate has won an open-seat or challenger election on the first ballot.

Republicans rallied around Mr. Jindal, a 36-year-old Baton Rouge native and Indian American wunderkind who received aid from the Republican National Committee and television ads and hundreds of thousands of direct mailings from the Republican Governors Association.

Mr. Jindal ran pledging to reform a corrupt government establishment that includes outgoing Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat who stumbled over herself prior to and during the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Oxford-educated and elected to the House in 2004, Mr. Jindal stepped up where Blanco fell short. He was able to govern in a way consistent with traditional values and fundamental Republican principles. He earned a 96 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, strong support from the National Rifle Association and a 0 percent rating from the NARAL Pro-Choice abortion-rights group. He ran for Congress as a conservative, he legislated as a conservative and as a conservative he trounced his gubernatorial competition.

In seeking out the immigrant vote, a bloc which is starting to swing Democratic, Republicans should hold Mr. Jindal up as a shining example of the American dream available to families who legally enter our borders. As an ethnic minority, Mr. Jindal received the party embrace he deserved, a contrast from the cold shoulder that the top-tier Republican presidential candidates have shown minorities by ignoring their requests to discuss their needs in an open forum.

Wedged between the 2006 losses and the 2008 elections, Republicans need to return to their conservative roots if they hope to see their party’s brand survive. Next year in the Senate, Republicans have 22 seats at stake while Democrats have only 12. In the House, a slew of recent retirements means Republicans must defend at least 12 seats while Democrats will lose only two incumbents. The battle is uphill, but candidates in the mold of Bobby Jindal can stem the tide.

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