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Louisiana Congressman Jindal Elected Governor

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

This is a moment when Republicans are trying to find their way. The party is at the tail end of unpopular administration, and it's divided on issues from immigration to Iraq. In a few minutes, we'll hear the way the presidential candidates address those challenges.

We begin with the Republican who did what few Republicans have done lately. Bobby Jindal won an election. He is now governor-elect of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Governor BOBBY JINDAL (Republican, Louisiana): Everyone in the country has helped us in our time of need and we are very grateful. And we still need help, but please know this; we are simply not going to just try to rebuild. We'll have no part of such a small goal.

INSKEEP: Bobby Jindal's victory was not a small victory. Louisiana had its election on Saturday. Normally, the top two candidates go on to a runoff, but Jindal's victory was so large, that wasn't necessary. He captured more than 50 percent of the vote.

We're joined now by our own Louisiana old native, NPR's Cokie Roberts.

Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Big change in power in Louisiana.

ROBERTS: Wow, Quite an election. The nation's first Indian-American governor, and it's in Louisiana state where politics and race have often been much too closely aligned. And - an immigrant American, his mother came to this country from India to get a degree in nuclear physics from LSU, also not typical in Louisiana.

He's 36 years old. He was a boy wonder. He first headed the state health system and put it on good of financial basis. Headed the university system, already. Was in the Bush administration - health. And then he ran for governor four years ago against Kathleen Blanco and lost, and then run for Congress and won in a district that only elects Republicans.

But he came back after Katrina, and the very different situation, as you well know. Governor Blanco did not cover herself with glory after that hurricane, and she chose not to run again. And, really, no Democrats with well-known statewide names ran. And as you say, quite remarkable to not have a runoff, just win with a majority of the vote going away.

INSKEEP: Well, what issue did he use to get so many people to pull that -R lever?

ROBERTS: He basically said he'd make it better, and it needs to be made better. The state is at the bottom in education, bottom in health. There's a huge brain drain of good people leaving the state. You heard him say, in your intro, that he was going to rebuild and do more than rebuild after Katrina. And he's also promising that the endemic corruption that has made it so hard to keep people in the state and to make things better, that he would change that corruption. Listen to this.

Gov. JINDAL: This won't happen over night. I certainly can't promise that you'll never again see incompetence or corruption in Louisiana. But I can promise you this; when they're rear their heads, they will not be tolerated.

INSKEEP: No corruption in Louisiana?

ROBERTS: Well, there's a lot of skepticism about that, I have to say, and I did sit next to Congressman Jindal at a funeral a couple of weeks ago. A funeral of Sheriff Lee where one of the eulogies was tape of Edwin Edwards from jail, the former governor. So, it is pretty much ingrained, but he has done a lot of things that he's said he was going to do.

I will say this, Steve. There is a national implication here, which is to turn out the incumbent party. We certainly seeing that at the federal level, with the Republicans in trouble at the presidential level, here it was the Democrats who were in trouble at the state level. And it would be interesting to see if that holds in other elections around the country for Congress, Governor, etc.

INSKEEP: Okay, and we'll talk more here about the national implications. Cokie, thanks very much.

Analysis as we get every Monday morning from Cokie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
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