GOP Looks Outside Washington For Party Leaders

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is just one of several Republicans who seem to have potential as future leaders of the party. Jindal is an Indian American, and analysts say it's no accident that Republicans chose Jindal to speak tonight after President Obama delivers his speech to a joint session of Congress.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

NPR News analyst Juan Williams says it's no accident that Republicans chose an Indian-American governor to speak tonight, and an African-American chairman of the party, Michael Steele of Maryland.

JUAN WILLIAMS: They are looking for someone who can match the narrative of Barack Obama and appeal to what is a radically shifting demographic in terms of the American electorate. You know, you have more not only young people, but you have more people of color, more immigrants. And the Republican Party has been losing out on all those segments of the demographic.

INSKEEP: You also mentioned the substance - Bobby Jindal trying to present himself as someone who can get things done. There was an editorial cartoon that's been reprinted a few places, Juan Williams. It shows a bunch of, like, Greco-Roman kind of buildings, temples, that are labeled Republican ideas, and they've all collapsed into rubble. And there's an elephant saying, we're shovel-ready, in the midst of the rubble - the idea being that Republicans have no ideas left.

Have Republicans gotten past simply saying they disagree with what the president wants to do?

WILLIAMS: Well, I don't think so. I think that part of that effort now is to have Bobby Jindal stand up there and say, listen, he wants more tax cuts, especially on capital gains. But here is what he objects to in terms of the stimulus package. And he'll talk about things like unemployment insurance becoming permanent and state having to pay for it.

He'll ask questions about why we're going to fund high-speed rail, and why we're giving money to the arts - these aren't necessarily job-creating things, that this is pork spending. So, it brings Republicans back to these basic ideas, Steve, of small government, lowering the deficit and in fact, doing things more efficiently.

And so, you know, tax and spend? That's those liberal Democrats, and that's why you should elect Republicans.

INSKEEP: Are Republicans facing a bit of a challenge, in a sense, in that their ideas were predominant for a number of years in Washington, in both Congress and the White House, and so if they continue saying the same thing, they're just accused of having the same old ideas?

WILLIAMS: They are, and you know what, they don't have any radically new ideas to offer as alternatives to the stimulus package right now. But what you are seeing - and this is an interesting point - is that none of the prospects for the 2012 election, none of the emerging leaders, are really Washington people. They're coming from outside.

They're the governors, and they're like Bobby Jindal, they're like Mark Stanford of South Carolina, Sarah Palin of Alaska. These are the people who are seen now as executives who have ideas, breaking from the Republican brand that is in such disrepute.

INSKEEP: NPR News analyst, Juan Williams. Thanks very much.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Steve.

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