A Republican Surprise In Louisiana

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Is the U.S. about to get its first Governor of full-fledged Indian — and we don't mean Native American — ancestry? In Louisiana's race for Governor, Republican Bobby Jindal, 32, born and raised in Baton Rouge by parents who emigrated from India, is in a surprising dead heat for first place with Democratic Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Blanco. Jindal already has a whiz kid's resume: state health secretary, executive director of the national commission on Medicare, president of the University of Louisiana system and a top health-policy adviser to the Bush Administration — all before the age of 30. He has wooed Louisiana's relatively conservative voters with his advocacy of tax cuts for job creation and his opposition to gun control and abortion.

Jindal's popularity surprises even some old Bush Administration colleagues. "I wished the guy luck, but I never thought he'd go anywhere," says one. If, as expected, he and Blanco finish in the top two spots in this Saturday's primary, they will square off in the November general election. Democrats seem to have an edge, but Jindal could win. If he does, he would be Louisiana's youngest Governor ever — and instantly a national figure in a party eager to show that it can reach out to minorities.