BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After announcing his bid for the White House, Gov. Bobby Jindal hit the road, and Louisiana's seen him very little since.
The Republican governor's spent nearly two-thirds of his days away from Louisiana since kicking off his presidential campaign on June 24.
Jindal's home away from home is the key early voting state of Iowa, where he's focused nearly all of his presidential ambitions. But the governor's also made several stops in New Hampshire and visited New York, Ohio, Georgia and South Carolina.
The term-limited Jindal was on the road 47 days out of the last 72 days, according to an Associated Press analysis. The AP tally is based on Jindal campaign travel announcements and the governor's required notifications to Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne about out-of-state trips.
Aides say Jindal's still paying attention to the job he was elected to do in Louisiana, even if he's gone for long stretches of time.
"No matter where he is, Gov. Jindal is the chief executive of Louisiana at all times," Jindal spokesman Mike Reed said in a statement. "An increased travel schedule hasn't had an impact on day-to-day operations, since technology allows staff to stay in touch with the governor even when he is not sitting in his office in Baton Rouge."
Reed said Jindal's most recent Cabinet meeting was Aug. 28 as state officials assembled to review emergency preparedness efforts as a precautionary measure for Tropical Storm Erika, which didn't reach Louisiana.
Seventy percent of Jindal's away time has been spent in Iowa, where the governor — like several other GOP presidential candidates — has pledged to visit all 99 counties. He's held town hall meetings, met voters at restaurants, visited farms and spoken at the state fair.
Despite the strong attention he's given the important presidential race state, Jindal remains in the bottom tier of Republican contenders so far.
Even before he announced his presidential campaign, Jindal's frequent travel and national political ambitions were considered among the reasons his approval ratings had dropped into the low 30s in Louisiana. State lawmakers tried to curb taxpayer spending on Jindal's state trooper protective detail for the campaign trips, but the governor vetoed the effort.
Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, doesn't believe the out-of-state travel registers with Louisiana's residents anymore. The governor has only a few months remaining in office before his second term ends, Cross said, and people expect him to be checked out of state affairs.
"I think his reputation in this state is pretty much set, and part of the legacy will be that he was looking beyond Louisiana while he was being governor," Cross said. "Is he doing any further damage? I don't really think so. I think it's just more of the same."
Jindal dismisses the low approval ratings at home as a byproduct of his tough decision-making and disruption of entrenched bureaucracies to reform government. But the governor's absenteeism and presidential ambitions are a point of attack used by several candidates vying to take his place as governor.
GOP U.S. Sen. David Vitter emphasizes in his gubernatorial campaign speeches that "this will be my last political job" if elected. Dardenne, the Republican lieutenant governor, tells audiences at governor's race forums that he's "concerned with Des Allemandes, Louisiana, not Des Moines, Iowa." And Democrat John Bel Edwards, a state representative in the governor's race, tells voters that "Louisiana deserves a governor who wakes up in the state of Louisiana."
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Posted on Sun, September 6, 2015
by MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press