Lost at least for now in a pack of better-known White House contenders, the country's first Indian-American governor is taking heat in Louisiana for a USD 1.6 billion budget shortfall that threatens colleges and health care services with deep cuts.Lawmakers from both parties say his national political ambitions are a distraction.

"People, I believe, would love to separate themselves from him," said Republican state Senator. Robert Adley. Despite frequent travel, his attention to national issues, a  good relationship with religious conservatives and plenty of sharp rhetoric against President Barack Obama, Jindal is making little impact in the Republican race, with most of the attention going to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the favorite.

Even so, it's early in the contest, and Jindal is expected to announce a presidential bid after state lawmakers wrap up their legislative session in mid-June.
    
He's sent political aides to Iowa and recently announced the hiring of a political operative for New Hampshire. A Catholic convert raised by Hindu parents, Jindal has pivoted from his reputation as a policy wonk to make his religious beliefs the centerpiece of a possible White House campaign.

He's courted evangelical Christians through meetings with pastors and aggressively promoted "religious liberty" in speeches.
    
So far, however, party leaders and key donors have been slow to embrace his national ambitions. And he's competing for the religious conservative vote against more well-known contenders, like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

"The good news for Governor Jindal is he's making a good impression with Iowa's evangelical leaders," said former Iowa Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn. "The bad news for Governor Jindal is that there's about a half dozen candidates that are also trying to fish in that pond."
    
Among Louisiana residents, Jindal's approval has dipped into the high 20s and low 30s in recent surveys. The governor, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits, suggests that's because "reform is always controversial. Democracy is messy.

"But the end result has been a stronger, more prosperous Louisiana for our children," Jindal told lawmakers last week as the state's annual legislative session began.


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