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Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal opens White House bid pledging “never to lead from behind”

Jindal touts his record, says Republicans “must stop being afraid to lose”

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

louisiana mugKENNER, Louisiana (CFP) — Taking a swipe at both Democratic “socialism” and a Republican Party that he says has been “beaten into submission,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal launched his campaign for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination by calling himself a “doer,” not a “talker.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

“There are a lot of great talkers running for president. But none of them — not one — can match our record of actually shrinking the size of government,” Jindal said in his June 24 kickoff rally in Kenner, a New Orleans suburb. “I’m not running for president to be somebody. I’m running for president to do something.”

“If you want somebody who’s just going to pretend that everything is fine, just make some small tweaks, then you want somebody else. I’ll make this promise to you. I will never lead from behind.”

Jindal, 44, is in the last year of his second term as the Pelican State’s chief executive. He touted his record as governor in his opening address, noting that he took office just two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

“Our economy was locked in a downward spiral. Our biggest city was reeling. For 25 straight years, more people had left this state than had moved into it,” he said. “Louisiana was in big trouble, so we had to make big changes.”

Among the achievements Jindal cited were education reform, particularly in New Orleans where the entire school system was converted into charter schools, and a 26 percent reduction in the state’s budget.

“It wasn’t easy. The big government crowd fought us every step of the way,” he said. “But in the end, we won.”

However, Jindal had to delay his widely anticipated presidential campaign while Louisiana’s legislature struggled to close a massive budget deficit that the governor’s critics blame on his refusal to consider tax increases to offset sharp declines in revenues from oil production.

Those budget problems have taken a toll on Jindal’s popularity, with a poll in March putting his approval rating at just 27 percent.

Jindal, a Rhodes scholar, was something of a wunderkind in Louisiana politics, becoming head of the state health department at the tender age of 24 and president of the University of Louisiana System at just 28. He was appointed assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Jindal left the Bush administration to run unsuccessfully for governor in 2003. In 2004, he was elected to the U.S. House, representing a suburban New Orleans district until his election as governor in 2007.

In the opening speech of his presidential campaigns, Jindal signaled that he plans to run as an unvarnished conservative who would cut the size of government and defend religious liberty.

“Republicans must stop being afraid to lose,” he said. “If we try to hide who we are again, we will lose again.”

Jindal took a direct shot at one of his chief GOP rivals, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, by lampooning Bush’s assertion that GOP candidates “need to be willing to lose the primary in order to win the general election.”

“We’re going to help him do that,” Jindal said. “What Jeb Bush is saying is we need to hide our conservative ideals … Let’s do something new. Let’s endorse our own principles for a change. Let’s boldly speak the truth without fear.”

In recent months, Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants who converted to Roman Catholicism as a teenager, has been courting religious conservatives, particularly with his outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage. In his campaign kickoff, he charged that Christianity “is under assault today in America.”

“I want to say this slowly so that even Hillary Clinton can understand this — America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America,” he said.

Jindal — whose given name is Piyush and who, if elected, would be the nation’s first Indian-American president — also lashed out at “all this talk about hyphenated Americans.”

“We are not Indian-Americans, African-Americans, Irish-Americans, rich Americans or poor Americans. We are all Americans.”

Jindal also leveled a broadside against President Obama, saying “this president and his apprentice-in-waiting, Hillary Clinton, are leading America down the path to destruction economically, culturally and internationally.”

“The simple fact is they are trying to turn the American dream into socialism.”

Jindal said his four main objectives as president would be to secure the border, replace Obamacare with a market-based health care system, cut the size of government and improve “America’s defenses.”

Jindal is one of eight Southern Republicans seeking the presidency in 2016. In addition to Bush and Jindal, the other Southern candidates are former governors Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rick Perry of Texas and U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The Southern GOP field is divided equally between senators and governors. Two of the last three Republicans elected president — George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan — served as governor, while the last GOP senator elected to the presidency was Warren Harding in 1920.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas who went on to be elected to the Senate from New York.

Louisiana U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu hit with new anti-Obamacare ad

Also, State Rep. Paul Hollis joins the race against Landrieu

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

NEW ORLEANS (CFP) — An anti-Obamacare group is launching a multi-million dollar ad campaign criticizing U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and two other Democratic senators over President Obama’s claim that everyone who had health insurance would be able to keep it.

Obama’s assertion was characterized as the “lie of the year” by Politifact, a nonpartisan group that monitors political claims.

The anti-Landrieu ad, funded by Americans for Prosperity, shows footage of her on the floor of the Senate stating that people can “keep their current plan.” It also shows an exchange between Landrieu and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in which she says she has no regrets about her vote in favor of Obamacare.

“We’re putting pressure on senators who repeated that lie and doubled down on Obamacare, even as it became obvious that the law was hurting millions of Americans,” said AFP President Tim Phillips in a statement

AFP is also targeting Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina with a  separate ad featuring a small businesswoman from her state talking about the negative impacts of Obamacare. The group’s third target is Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

While the Landrieu campaign hasn’t reponded directly to the latest ad, her Web site does feature a fundraising pitch noting that “right win groups tied to the Koch brothers have already spent millions to attach her.”

David and Charles Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, helped found and fund Americans for Prosperity.

Meanwhile, Landrieu, who is running for her fourth term in the Senate, has drawn a third GOP challenger, State Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington, who has filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission and plans to make a formal announcement in January.

Two other Republicans are also running, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy from Baton Rouge and Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel from Madisonville.

Cassidy is the favored candidate of much of the Republican leadership, both in Washington and Louisiana. Maness is aiming for Tea Party support by positioning himself as the only “constitutional conservative” in the race.

To drive home his criticism of Cassidy as being too much like the incumbent, Maness’s Web site shows pictures of Landrieu, Cassidy and himself, with the captions “Mary,” “Mary,” and “Quite Contrary.”

In Louisiana, all of the candidates, regardless of party, run against each other in a single primary. If no candidate gets a majority, then the top two candidates face each other in a runoff.

In 2008, when she faced a single Republican, Landrieu won without a runoff. But she was forced into runoffs in both 1996 and 2002, when there were multiple Republicans and other Democrats in the race.

Here is the Americans for Prosperity ad against Landrieu:

U.S. Senator David Vitter to decide on Louisiana governor’s race in January

Vitter tells C-SPAN that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will run for White House in 2016

♦By Rich Shumate,

louisiana mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter says he will decide in January whether to seek Louisiana’s governorship in 2015.

U.S. Senator David Vitter

U.S. Senator David Vitter

“We don’t have any hard deadline in mind, but I would expect we’ll come to a conclusion sometime in January,” Vitter told C-SPAN in a December 19 interview.

“It comes down to one key question …where I think I can make the most positive difference off of the remainder of my political life,” he said.

Vitter also said it is “very obvious” that his state’s current governor, Republican Bobby Jindal, will make a bid for the White House in 2016.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

“I do think he’ll run. I think he’s been running, and I think he’ll be a meaningful and signficant candidate,” said Vitter. However, the senator stopped short of endorsing Jindal, saying he has not yet thought ahead to the 2016 race.

Jindal, 42, elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011, is term limited as governor.

Vitter, 52, said regardless of whether he runs for governor or stays in the Senate, it will be the last political office he holds. His Senate term runs until 2016.

Vitter also said he sees a “50-50 or better chance” that Republicans will take control of the Senate in 2014, which would make him the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. However, he said the possibility of gaining the majority won’t be “a determining factor” in deciding whether to stay in the Senate or run for governor.

Because Louisiana holds its state elections in off years, Vitter could pursue the governorship without giving up his Senate seat.

If he runs for governor, Vitter will likely face a intra-party challenge from Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, who has said he is also likely to run for governor and has already set up a campaign Web site.

In Louisiana, Vitter, Dardenne and all other candidates from any party run together in a single primary, with the top two vote getters vying in a runoff if no one gets a majority.

Two Democrats have also announced — Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell from Shreveport and State Rep. John Bel Edwards from Roseland. There has also been speculation that another prominent and popular Democrat, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu might make the governor’s race if he wins re-election in February.

Landrieu is the brother of Vitter’s seatmate in the Senate, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, who is up for re-election in 2014.


GOP businessman Vance McAllister wins House seat in Louisiana

McAllister easily beats fellow Republican State Senator Neil Riser in 5th District runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

louisiana mugMONROE, Louisiana (CFP) — Armed with an endorsement from the stars of Duck Dynasty, Republican businessman and political newcomer Vance McAllister easily won a special election for a vacant U.S. House seat in Louisiana.

U.S. Rep.-elect Vance McAllister

U.S. Rep.-elect Vance McAllister

McAllister, 39, from Swartz, beat Republican State Senator Neil Riser, 51, of Columbia, by a 60-40 percent margin in the November 16 runoff.  He will replace GOP U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, who resigned his seat after he was appointed by Governor Bobby Jindal to head the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

Riser had finished first in the first round of voting on October 19, with 32 percent of the vote, setting up a runoff with McAllister, who captured 18 percent. Under Louisiana’s blanket primary system, candidates from all parties run in the same primary, which set up the battle between two Republicans in the heavily GOP district.

The 5th District takes in 24 parishes in northeastern and central Louisiana, including some parishes along the Mississippi River east of Baton Rouge.

Alexander, first elected as a Democrat in 2002, switched to the GOP in 2004. McAllister’s election keeps Louisiana’s House delegation steady at six Republicans and one Democrat.

Riser had the backing of Alexander and the state GOP establishment. But McAllister fought back by pouring more than $400,000 of his own money into the race and enlisting support from Willie and Jep Robertson, family friends and stars of the popular A&E series.

Both Robertsons cut ads for McAllister that aired during the runoff campaign.

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