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Jindal is confident he is winning

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC
October 04, 2003 17:16 IST
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Republican Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal is so sure of a win in the primary on Saturday for the governorship of Louisiana that his campaign has reserved the ballroom at the Astro Crowne Plaza Hotel on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of  New Orleans for a victory celebration.

Jindal, who is the front-runner in all opinion polls, is expected to face off with either the state's Democratic Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Blanco or State Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, also a Democrat.

The winner and the second placed candidate in the primary will square off in the November 15 general election.

A victory in the primary by itself will be history in the making for the Indian American community. And if Jindal wins the general election, not only would it be unprecedented in the annals of the Indian American immigrant experience, it would also be a first in Louisiana politics too.

Political analyst James Gill commented on Thursday: "The pundits' early read was that Bobby Jindal had no chance of being elected governor on account of he isn't white. Those same pundits will now be astonished if Jindal doesn't secure a runoff spot in tomorrow's primary.

"Perhaps a dusky complexion will prove a drawback in the runoff, but the poll numbers suggest that, so far, Jindal's brain has made a bigger impression than his ethnicity."

Pollster Verne Kennedy, who has been conducting a daily tracking poll, said Jindal coming first is almost a given and "the question now is who's going to be second."

In fact, ever since the polls had Jindal as the front-runner, all other candidates have begun to attack him, with the most recent salvos against him being hurled at a televised debate last week when he was assailed for accepting campaign contributions from New Orleans Saints during the football team's home opener early last month.

Democratic former state Senate president Randy Ewing, going after Jindal for his refusal to discuss the details of the September 14 fund-raiser, where he received nearly $100,000 from "[Saints owner] Tom Benson and his buddies," told Jindal: "I know you're a decent, ethical person, but it looks like to me you're trying to have it both ways on this deal -- you say you don't want to talk about your finances, but how do you explain that? Finances and the way we operate are connected."

Jindal said he's filed detailed reports that document all contributors to his campaign as required by the state law, but he has been criticised for raising huge amounts of his more than $1.5 million campaign war-chest from outside Louisiana.

Nearly a third of his campaign fund contributions have come from the Indian American community from around the country.

Jindal said he wasn't at all surprised to find all candidate going after him because "when you're leading in the polls, people will take shots at you."

Jindal spent all of Friday flying across the state, holding pep rallies and press conferences -- many of them at the airports itself -- and continuing to pledge that he would turn around Louisiana's economy, improve education infrastructure and reform health care.

Also see: Bobby Jindal is flying high, literally

Meanwhile, the Louisiana radio stations have been flooded in the past few weeks with Jindal radio spots where he lavishes praise on his former boss, President George W Bush, as someone "who knows the difference between right and wrong, and is not afraid to say it. And that's the kind of governor I'll be."

Jindal, who converted to Catholicism as a teenager, slams Hollywood in another radio-spot, evidently to reach a more conservative base, saying his campaign is also partly a battle "for the moral direction of our country and the state."

He said those in Hollywood "act as if marriage has no meaning, that life is disposable and that telling the truth isn't fashionable. As a father, husband and Christian, I'm worried."

In another radio spot, Jindal who has declared he is pro-life, anti-abortion and pledged to live by the Ten Commandments if elected governor, slams the federal court ruling that recently forced a Ten Commandments monument to be removed from the front of the Alabama Supreme Court.

He told that the momentum of his campaign is charged up and predicted victory in the run-off.

"All the polls show us in first place," he said and pointed out that in all the major cities, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans, "we are running first and we've gained the most amount of points in all of the most recent polls."

Jindal said the victory party in New Orleans "is just the first one and we'll have the second one in Baton Rouge", his birthplace, where he was raised and went to high school before going off to college at Brown University and then to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
He returned to a blazing career as a whiz kid, first serving as the health administrator of Louisiana and then as executive director of medicare reform in Washington DC.

He returned to his home state as president of the Louisiana University System and was later appointed as assistant secretary of health and human services by President Bush -- the highest ranking position held by an Indian American in the Bush administration.
Jindal resigned in February to run for governor.

The polls are scheduled to close at 8 pm EST on Saturday and the results expected about an hour later.


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Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC