Bobby Jindal's Head Vs. Sarah Palin's Heart

Bobby Jindal's got smarts. For the social conservatives, that's not enough.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

More on how a Jindal-Palin presidential matchup might play out, from Michael Gerson in the Washington Post :

In Louisiana, Jindal is the darling of evangelical and charismatic churches, where he often tells his conversion story. One Louisiana Republican official has commented, "People think of Bobby Jindal as one of us." Consider that a moment. In some of the most conservative Protestant communities, in one of the most conservative states in America, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, a strong Catholic with parents from Punjab, is considered "one of us."

... If Jindal runs for president in three or seven years, he will be widely viewed as an evangelical choice.

... And Jindal's résumé, intellectual confidence and command of policy make him the anti-Palin. Fairly or unfairly, media and intellectual elites (including some conservative elites) regard Gov. Sarah Palin as an inhabitant of another cultural planet. Jindal, while also religious and conservative, speaks the language of the knowledge class and will not be easily caricatured or dismissed. To journalists, policy experts and Rhodes scholars, Jindal is also "one of us."

It's a cogent argument. But if Jindal's anemic performance on Tuesday night showed anything, it's that his head-based conservatism doesn't jump through the TV screen the way Sarah Palin's heart-based conservatism does. That might be as much a liability among rank-and-file cultural conservatives as it is an asset among what Gerson calls the knowledge class.

For religious conservatives, having a visceral, emotional connection with a candidate is important. It helps explain why Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush—and Sarah Palin—won them over while George H.W. Bush and John McCain struggled among them. If Jindal aspires to be the "evangelical choice" at the national level, he's got to figure out how to emote.

  • Read more by Dan Gilgoff.
  • Read more about Sarah Palin.