Jindal back in contention as McCain running mate

May 22nd, 2008 - 10:01 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 22 (IANS) Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s Indian-American governor, is back in contention as presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s running mate along with two others long rumoured to be on his vice presidential shortlist. Jindal, 36, who was elected last October as the first Indian-American US governor, has denied that he is interested in the number two spot on the Republican ticket saying he likes his current job.

But fresh speculation about Jindal was sparked by a New York Times report Wednesday that he, Florida Governor Charlie Crist and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will meet McCain at his home in Arizona.

Romney, 61, who lost the Republican nomination battle to McCain, has made clear he would seriously consider a vice presidential offer. Crist, 51, who took office last year, has been a little coy.

Downplaying the visits, senior McCain advisers insisted the visit is just a social one with Gloria Borger telling CNN that the McCains were hosting 18-20 supporters as a way to show thanks for their help during the campaign.

But if the gathering does not involve actual interviews, as some of McCain’s associates said Wednesday, it will provide McCain with a chance to know some potential running mates in a social context, the New York Times said.

McCain is known as a social and gregarious candidate and senator, and his associates said personal chemistry would be a key consideration in his choice. The gathering is taking place on a weekend when McCain is releasing his health care records, itself a high-profile event that could - by design or not - draw attention away from the event at the Arizona ranch.

The identities of the potential running mates who have been invited to Sedona is not a surprise: Romney, Crist and Jindal have been on most lists of potential running mates, and they have made no secret of their interest, the Times said.

And even the perception that they are under consideration could be more a matter of appearance than reality: the mere impression that McCain is considering Crist of Florida, for example, could by itself help him in a critical state where McCain campaigned Wednesday, the daily suggested.

Jindal, who was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to a family that had just arrived there from Punjab in India, took office as Louisiana’s governor in January after serving three years in the US House of Representatives.

Discussing the relative merits of the three McCain guests, the Times noted that Jindal, who was born a Hindu but became a Roman Catholic as a teenager, campaigned for governor as a social conservative, opposing human embryonic stem cell research and abortion in any form and favouring teaching “intelligent design” in schools as an alternative to evolution.

But Jindal also has a reputation as a policy wonk, like the Clintons, with a specialty in health care issues, it said.

After graduating in 1991 from Brown University, where he majored in biology and public policy, and attending Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Jindal worked for the management consulting firm McKinsey and Company and was executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare.

He later served as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and in the Bush administration as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for planning and evaluation.

Other guests, according to one adviser, include Kansas Senator and former Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback and his wife, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and her husband, FedEx founder Fred Smith and his wife, and senor adviser Charlie Black and his wife.

“I know you all want it to be about the vice presidential process but that is not what it is about,” Black told CNN. “It would be kind of hard to interview vice presidential candidates while you’re grilling,” he quipped.

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