What makes their rivalry particularly noteworthy is that Vitter—who has been the butt of many more and much better jokes than Jindal’s—may now be more popular and influential in the Louisiana Republican Party. This doesn’t just testify to Vitter’s underrated political skills; it also pulls back the curtain on Jindal’s overrated ones. While Jindal was traveling the country, giving speeches on fixing the Republican Party and stoking presidential and vice presidential speculation, Vitter, who once seemed so isolated and politically vulnerable, was quietly and carefully courting influence in the state GOP.
Now, it’s Jindal who is isolated and vulnerable. His approval rating has plummeted after voters revolted against his handling of the state’s budget crisis. Other Republicans in Louisiana describe a governor so cut off from his party that he and his team operate “like a cult.”
Making matters worse, Jindal is term-limited as governor in 2015—and Vitter could be the candidate to replace him. If Jindal’s off-putting style has driven Louisiana Republicans into the arms of a man more famous for his personal peccadilloes than his legislative record, then just imagine what he’ll do for Marco Rubio or Chris Christie as a presidential candidate in 2016.