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Jindal again downplays VP talk, says he is happy where he is

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : Louisiana’s Indian American Governor Bobby Jindal has once again discounted speculation that John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, may pick him as his running mate, saying he’s currently focused on his current job.

“The speculation is flattering. I’ve talked to the senator several times. We’ve never talked about the topic,” Jindal said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS. He was one of a handful of potential candidates who spent Memorial Day weekend at the Sedona, Arizona home of McCain.

“The reality is, I’ve got the job that I want. This is an historic time for my state, not only because of Katrina and Rita, those awful hurricanes in 2005, but for many reasons, like the energy economy and other opportunities.”

“I’m certainly supporting Senator McCain, will do whatever I can to help him get elected, but I’m focused on being governor of Louisiana,” Jindal said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

But Jindal, a former member of the US House of Representatives, who became the first Indian American governor of a US State in January, did not say whether he’d reject a running-mate offer.

Some analysts have drawn comparisons between Jindal and presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama. Both are newcomers to the national scene, minorities, highly educated, young and talented at public speaking.

Jindal said that, even aside from policy differences, those comparisons have their limitations.

“I think Senator Obama is an incredibly gifted speaker. I don’t think I should be included in that same short list, and I mean that as a sincere compliment,” Jindal said.

“I don’t agree with all of his ideas, but I think he brings an earnestness, I think he’s genuine. I think he speaks better than any elected official I’ve heard in several, several years, maybe going back to President Reagan.”

Two former 2008 presidential candidates – Democrat John Edwards and Republican Fred Thompson – have also made it pretty clear that it’s pretty unlikely that they would be Obama or McCain’s running mates this fall.

“I’d take anything [Obama] asked me to think about seriously, but obviously this is something I’ve done and it’s not a job that I’m seeking,” Edwards, who was John F. Kerry’s running mate in 2004, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Thompson said he is not interested in being vice president. “It’s presumptuous for a person to turn down things that haven’t been offered to them and I don’t think will be offered. And it’s not something that I want,” he said on ABC.

Meanwhile, “Details” magazine too has speculated about Jindal’s candidature. At half McCain’s age, Jindal counters the relative youthfulness of Barack Obama, and his ethnic background could help erode that historic distinction for the Democratic ticket, as well, writes Jonathan Miles.

In a preview of a piece coming out in its August issue the magazine gives a broad look at the rapid political success – with the occasional knock-back – and an evolved sense of Jindal’s faith and politics.

“Being the son of an immigrant is almost like being a convert to Americanism,” Jindal, who was born in the US six months after his parents arrived from India is quoted as saying. He’s also a convert to Catholicism from Hinduism.

He became a Republican after growing up in a nominally Democratic house and has succeeded politically in Louisiana despite being the antithesis of a Louisianan, writes Miles.

“He doesn’t care much, for instance, about food. His musical tastes run toward middle-of-the-road FM rock – Clapton, the Beatles – though, really, whatever’s on the radio will do.

“He doesn’t drink alcohol – an anomaly in a state where, as the joke goes, cirrhosis of the liver gets listed on death certificates as ‘natural causes’ – or even coffee, Louisiana’s second official liquid.

“In a state so devoted to hunting and fishing that its licence plates read ‘SPORTSMAN’S PARADISE,’ Jindal’s chosen sport is tennis. But something else sets Jindal apart in this deep-fried southern state: His first name is Piyush, not Robert…”