Jindal‘s speech continues S.C. tour of 2016 White House hopefuls

ashain@thestate.comJune 6, 2014 

FILE PHOTO: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's re-election kickoff in Greenville in August.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

As candidates edge closer to deciding whether they want to run for the White House in two years, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spoke Friday before hundreds of S.C. Republicans of a growing rebellion against personal and religious intrusions by the Obama administration.

“President Obama would never send his kids to these failed schools,” Jindal said about his state’s legal battle with federal authorities over school vouchers during the S.C. GOP’s annual Silver Elephant fundraising dinner.

His speech touched on themes that will become familiar in the looming presidential election cycle, including the administration’s foibles in its federal health care program and attacks on Evangelical Christians. “America did not create religious freedom. Religious freedom created America,” he said.

Jindal is one of several 2016 White House prospects coming to the state.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is about to make his third visit in less than a year next month. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky came four times to the Palmetto State last year. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was the keynote speaker at last year’s Silver Elephant dinner. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to come to help Gov. Nikki Haley with her re-election campaign this year. And Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who hosted a fundraiser for Haley in Jacksonville last month, also could come this year.

Jindal said he has not made up his mind on a presidential run. He is making his second Palmetto State visit in less than a year. But he’s lagging in national polls, often coming in at the bottom among the 11 leading GOP candidates, according to data compiled by Real Clear Politics.

“I’m certainly thinking and praying about what I do next after I’m done being governor. We’ll make that decision after November,” Jindal said before his speech. “We need new leadership in this country. The divide is between America and Washington, D.C. We need to cut government spending. We need to repeal Obamacare.”

Before the dinner, Jindal appeared at a fundraiser for Attorney General Alan Wilson and visited with Haley, the governor who supplanted him as the nation’s youngest when she was elected in 2010.

Jindal, the vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, would not say if Haley would be the group’s next leader. She sits on the RGA’s executive committee, giving her a national spotlight when the group gathers.

“She’s a natural national leader for conservatives and for Republicans,” Jindal said. “She’s articulate. She’s smart. She’s got a proven track record. ... Her future is bright and I think there’s no limit to what she can accomplish.”

Haley must first get through a re-election campaign this year. Jindal went after Democratic gubernatorial challenger Vincent Sheheen, calling him a trial lawyer who would “bring the state backwards.” Sheheen lost to Haley by 4.5 percentage points in their first meeting in 2010.

Jindal defended a pair of television ads paid by the RGA that attacked Sheheen for some of his criminal defense work as a Camden attorney. The RGA spent more than $700,000 on ad buys across the state. Lawyer groups, including the American Bar Association and S.C. Bar, assailed the ads’ message that lawyers cannot serve in public office because they offer defendants the right to legal representation.

“No one disputed the facts in the ad,” Jindal said. “He chose to make money defending folks who have committed some heinous crimes. I think it’s right to give voters that information and let them make the choice.”

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