Inviting Jindal over for a hoedown was a smart move for McCain, who still needs to suck up to the GOP's social conservatives and religious zealots. The right wing thinks Jindal hung the moon, but in the end I don't think he's going to be McCain's pick.
That conclusion is based not just on who McCain is, but also on what Jindal isn't. Think about it: Why would a guy who went through five-and-a-half years of hell in the Hanoi Hilton tap a 90-day wonder to stand a heartbeat away from the presidency? McCain may be a maverick, but he's still Old School in many ways. And while Jindal talks that old school talk, he hasn't walked the walk. In the view of many and I put John McCain in that number Bobby Jindal is a bright guy with a lot of potential, but he's not ready to be president. Not yet, anyway.
McCain is a real-life version of the kind of character that John Wayne used to portray in movies from a bygone era. If such a movie were to include a Bobby Jindal character, he would probably be played by a young Mickey Rooney a real Yankee Doodle Dandy, flags and all. Have you seen that movie, the one in which John Wayne runs for president and picks Mickey Rooney as his running mate?
Okay, so what if I'm wrong? What if McCain, like 53 percent of Louisiana voters last autumn, falls for Jindal? What would the young governor bring to the ticket?
In some ways, McCain picking Jindal would be reminiscent of George H. W. Bush picking Dan Quayle as his running mate in 1988. Quayle, a U.S. senator from Indiana, didn't hail from a battleground state like Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania. Instead, Quayle brought a different strength, one not based on geopolitics, to Bush: he was the first Baby Boomer to run on a national ticket a generational counterweight to the elder Bush, who was our last World War II-era president. Ironically, McCain could become the last Vietnam-era president but the first actually to have served in Vietnam.
Jindal reminds me of Quayle in several ways, in fact. He would provide a generational counterweight to McCain's 71 years. (McCain turns 72 on Aug. 29; Jindal turns 38 in two weeks.) Also like Quayle, Jindal will have enormous appeal to younger voters and to the party's hard-core right wing.
Jindal would bring one other critical dimension to the GOP ticket: ethnicity. In this year of presidential "firsts," he would provide an ethnic counterweight to Barack Obama's blackness. Indeed, he just might be the perfect Republican antidote to Obama's long-running stock as the national media's flavor of the month.
All of these things argue for Jindal being on the ticket, but those who are plunging headlong toward The Rapture at the thought of his potential haven't given enough thought to the others on the short list. They, too, bring great strengths to a ticket headed by McCain. Specifically, Mitt Romney's unassailable credentials as a businessman would give the ticket immediate gravitas on economic issues, and Florida's popular Governor Charlie Crist hails from the one state that both parties consider a must win.
At the end of the day, I think Jindal's "run" for the veep spot will be seen as a wistful political pipe dream or an early warm-up for 2012. He'll be all of 41 years old in four years (42 by Election Day). In the mean time, he will have to come back down to earth and actually do the work of governing Louisiana.
Of course, if McCain does tap Jindal, I'll be first in line at Blockbuster, looking for that old John Wayne-Mickey Rooney film. I can't wait to see how it ends.