Yesterday Louisiana elected Republican Bobby Jindal governor.
Jindal is exceptional in many ways. He is Indian-American, a child of immigrants. He is only 36, having been Louisiana's Secretary of Health and Human Services at 24 and president of the state university system at 28. He narrowly lost a race for governor four years ago, but was elected to Congress a year later. He won a convincing victory with 54% of the vote in a twelve candidate race.
Most importantly, he is an exceptional leader who ran on a platform of reform in a state with a long history of political corruption. He plans to push ethics measures in the Louisiana legislature. Jindal succeeds Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco, who was shown to be incompetent in the disaster of Hurricane Katrina.
Jindal has overcome the bigoted attacks of the Democrats. Four years ago, they darkened his skin in a picture and inveighed that voters must "wake up" before it was "too late". This year, the state democratic party distorted Jindal's religious writings to claim that he hates Protestants. (Jindal is Catholic.) This attack backfired.
Republicans won at least four of seven statewide races, with two more headed to runoffs. They also made gains in the state legislature.
Thus even in a bad political climate, Republican victories are possible. Republicans running in 2008 should learn from Jindal's example. Jindal ran against corruption and advocated reform. He didn't shy away from conservative positions on abortion, guns, and immigration, either.
Last week, Republican Jim Ogonowski received 45% of the vote, the most of any Republican congressional candidate in Massachusetts in a decade, in a heavily democratic district. He ran on a similar anti-establishment message. Democrats in Louisiana and nationwide are vulnerable to the right message.