By John Maginnis, LaPolitics.com
This was not the way the Republican presidential primaries were supposed to start, neither for Gov. Bobby Jindal nor candidate Buddy Roemer.
Had events unfolded as the two hoped, Jindal would be sharing the glory of his buddy Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s resounding victory in the Iowa caucuses, where the Louisiana governor would have drawn big crowds stumping for the early frontrunner.
Meanwhile, in the New Hampshire primary days away, Roemer would be surging toward second place behind a rattled Mitt Romney.
Had the early race played out as he envisioned it, the former Louisiana governor’s message of money corrupting politics would have electrified a national audience in televised debates, prompting a mass of $100 contributions to flow in from across the land.
As reality would have it, though, the Perry campaign hobbled into Iowa, a victim of its candidate, who had trouble completing sentences and lists of three.
Roemer, who staked his campaign on New Hampshire, registered two percent in a recent poll there, and called it good news.
Unforeseen six months ago was the disastrous effects of televised debates on both candidates: Roemer by his exclusion from them, Perry by his performance in them.
Now, on the morning after the Iowa caucuses, Jindal and Roemer might appear to have quickly diminishing roles in the race ahead. Instead, given the unexpected so far, both could re-emerge to play significant roles in the November election.
While Perry’s days as a candidate are numbered, Jindal’s services as sidekick extraordinaire are bound to be sought by the eventual nominee. If it’s to be Romney, the Massachusetts moderate could do a lot worse than to tap Jindal as his running mate, balancing the ticket with a young but experienced fiscal and social conservative who doesn’t scare people.
He performed well in the Iowa campaign, outshining the stumbling Perry in joint appearances, and has not damaged himself as have faded contenders Michele Bachman and Herman Cain, who were once thought to be veep material.
Even if Jindal is not on the ticket, he will be on the trail, as a leading surrogate for the nominee.
The son of immigrants and man of color, with rising star power, he would make for an unconventional but natural champion of the GOP cause in any state.
While Jindal has been making his mark as a top team player, loner Roemer has attacked from within, excoriating his better-known rivals as sellouts to big money, which has caused him to be ignored when not reviled by the Republican establishment. Yet, even after his campaign for the nomination eventually folds, Roemer still could have a great impact on the fall election, though not the impact his party has in mind.
Roemer’s message of the dominant, corrosive influence on our government by big banks and big business and his praise for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have won him few fans in the GOP. Instead of Fox News, the only TV networks to pay him any mind have been liberal MSNBC and Comedy Central.
His true appeal lies outside the GOP base, among independents and disaffected members of both major parties. This year, he and they could find a home with a potential new force in presidential politics, Americans Elect, a well-funded “third way” option, which aims to get on the ballot in all 50 states and to nominate a candidate through on-line voting in June.
On the organization’s web site, Roemer is the fourth most “tracked” candidate, running behind three figures unlikely to seek and/or receive the centrist group’s nod: Ron Paul, Barack Obama and Jon Huntsman.
Despite its organizers’ fantasies, the Americans Elect candidate is not going to be elected president, but the independent movement could determine who is. It’s happened before.
Even with his message’s disruptive appeal, to win the Internet-based nomination competition, Roemer still needs greater national exposure.
But for one who can talk the talk, he can’t be counted out.
Backed by Americans Elect’s resources and giving voice to a message many frustrated voters are primed to receive, Roemer would cause concern, if not alarm, in both parties, for it’s not clear from whom he would take more votes.
The 2011 portion of the nominating process did not go as the two gentlemen from Louisiana had planned, but bigger, stranger things could await them both amidst the twists and turns of the campaign year ahead.