RICHMOND, Va. – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal traveled to Virginia Friday to bolster the gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and to introduce himself to voters in what is likely to be a critical swing state in the 2016 presidential election.
Jindal was the keynote speaker on the opening day of the state Republican Party’s nominating convention at which Cuccinelli will officially become the GOP nominee. In a 20-minute speech to a roomful of party activists, Jindal called Cuccinelli a “man with the courage of his [conservative] convictions.”
“We live in a time … where too many of our elected officials stick their fingers up in the air and they see which way the wind is blowing,” Jendal said
“We have a saying in Louisiana about these politicians: they see a mob marching on city hall, they get in front of it and they call it a parade,” he said. “I'm tired of that kind of leadership. I'd much rather have a principled, conservative, articulate leader. “We need Ken to be your next governor because we need that kind of man.”
As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Jindal has a vested interest in the outcome of the race, which explains the pointed jab he took at Cuccinelli’s opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe. The RGA has already gone on the offensive against McAuliffe, labeling him a carpetbagger and political opportunist.
“I do need to thank the Virginia Democratic Party. As head of the RGA they have given by the greatest gift possible my making Terry McAuliffe their nominee,” Jindal said. “Ken, it's just not a fair fight.”
McAuliffe's campaign retorted that Jindal was talking about politicians like Cuccinelli earlier this year when he said Republicans "damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments."
"Just a few months ago, Gov Jindal rightly pointed out that extreme candidates who spout divisive rhetoric like Ken Cuccinelli damage the Republican Party," McAuliffe spokesman Brennan Bilberry said.
Jindal’s visit also was a chance for him to address the party diehards in the Old Dominion, whose backing he’d need if he enters the 2016 presidential race.
In that regard, Jindal touched briefly on his childhood and background as the nation’s first Indian-American governor and laid out a vision for education reform. He scolded Republicans in Washington for focusing too much on austerity and not enough on private-sector growth.
He also lashed out at those within the GOP who say the party needs to be redirected after the tough losses in 2012.
"The country already has one liberal party," he said. "It does not need two."
On the whole, the night was an opportunity for Virginia Republicans to begin to coalesce around Cuccinelli after some bitter infighting over the last six months. While that rift was partially caused by Cuccinelli’s surprising entrance into the race, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s tax increase for transportation further divided the rank and file.
GOP Party Chairman Pat Mullins on Friday night sought to bridge activists’ differences.
"You may be shocked by my next comment: Republicans don't always agree on everything,” Mullins said. “What our governor did took courage and he had the courage to address our transportation problems."
Cuccinelli will address the convention around 10:30 a.m. Saturday, the day party delegates will round out their ticket for the fall election. Two candidates are vying to be the party’s nominee for attorney general and seven competing for the lieutenant governor’s job.
Those candidates were feting convention delegates with hospitality suites packed with free food and drinks.