An Indian-American Running Mate for McCain?

Rumors that Lousiana Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal could be on Sen. John McCain’s short list for vice president have set the press in India abuzz. The Times of India reported Feb. 12 that “interested parties from India ever ready to drum up an Indian-American success story” have latched on to the idea of Jindal as Republican VP candidate.

Right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh was apparently the first to float Jindal’s name, remarking on on his Feb. 8 show that Jindal could be the “next Ronald Reagan.” According to Limbaugh, Jindal would be a stellar choice for VP and could possibly win over conservatives in the Republican party who have threatened to cast “suicide” votes for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton rather than vote for McCain.

Jindal’s office has not denied that the first-term governor is being considered as McCain’s running mate, and has said that Jindal would consider such an offer. In the past, Jindal has done a bit of brown-nosing when it comes to McCain, saying he considers the senator a “principled” figure and that “you never get the sense that he is trying to appease you, kiss up to you for your vote.”

Over the past few days, the idea of Jindal as a McCain running mate appears to have gained traction among experts and even within the Republican party, raising Jindal’s profile as a plausible consideration for veep. In fact, some pundits feel that the Indian-American governor is a rising star within the Republican party and could be the conservatives’ answer to Obama. Conservative magazine National Review suggested the party would be wise not to put up “two old white guys up against Clinton or Obama.”

Jindal is particularly attractive to republicans as a counterweight to Clinton’s health policies. During his tenure as secretary of Louisiana’s department of health and hospitals, Jindal holds the distinction of rescuing the state’s Medicaid program from a $400 million deficit into having a surplus of $220 million.

However, even though Jindal has regional appeal, having been a clear favorite in the 2007 gubernatorial race, it is unclear whether he could muster the broad-based support that Obama has, simply based on ethnicity. Particularly since his political record thus far places him on the far right. He is against abortion, supports co-payments in the Medicaid program, and opposes using government funds to clone human embryos for research.

On the international stage, an Indian-American VP would certainly have implications for the U.S. role in maintaining the precarious relations between India and Pakistan, since both countries are highly sensitive to the slightest suggestion that the United States may be making more concessions to one country over the other. However, the fact that Jindal, the son of Punjabi-Indian immigrants, converted from Hinduism to Catholicism in college, could lend him a semblance of objectivity when managing Hindu-Muslim tensions.