By Robert Mann
They can barely stand the sight of one another. They have never been political allies. Sometimes, it seemed Louisiana was too small for their outsized egos and ambitions.
How ironic, then, that the political careers of Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sen. David Vitter should come to abrupt and humiliating conclusions in the same week, only four days apart.
After spending his five-month official campaign stuck at 2 percent or less in the national polls, Jindal bowed to reality and left the race on Tuesday, Nov. 17. By 10 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21, Vitter had not only lost the governor’s race to state Rep. John Bel Edwards, he also announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate.
The political aspirations of the two Republicans who had ruled Louisiana politics for much of the past decade were suddenly, just days apart, reduced to ashes.
While neither man was primarily responsible for the other’s political demise, they had done nothing to help each other in their respective political pursuits.
For anyone hoping to undermine Jindal in places like Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, there were plenty of quotes available of Vitter denigrating Jindal’s leadership.
As for Jindal, the fiscal calamity that was his governorship added to the political headwind facing Vitter. While Republicans did well in the state’s Nov. 21 elections, the most important Republican on the ballot – Vitter – went down hard. And it was a defeat partly attributable to disgust with Jindal.
Even as they left the scene, the two men could not resist jabbing each other.
As Jindal ended his presidential campaign, it was immediately assumed that he had chosen the date to undermine any last-minute surge by Vitter. Right at the moment Vitter appeared to find an issue to lure Republicans back to his side – fear over Syrian refugees in Louisiana – Jindal pushed Vitter off the front pages. If Vitter had any momentum going – and it’s not clear that he did – Jindal’s announcement ended it.
He certainly wasn’t sorry to see Jindal drop out of the presidential race, but you can bet Vitter wished Jindal had waited until Sunday, Nov. 22, to announce his decision. Would holding off five more days have killed Jindal?
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