Kathleen Parker

What happens here also affects the rest of the country, as Louisiana is home to a third of the nation's petrochemical industry. As a port and entry point to the Mississippi River, the state is also crucial to distribution of 40 percent of the nation's natural gas and 20 percent of its imported crude oil. A third of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is harvested off the Louisiana coast.

Jindal has found support in unexpected quarters, including the 65-member Louisiana Sheriffs' Association, all but seven of them Democrats. The group supported a Jindal opponent when he first ran for governor in 2003, the race Kathleen Blanco won. She is not seeking re-election.

The sheriffs' conversion to Jindal's camp is another of Katrina's legacies. St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack Stephens told me that many voters have "buyer's remorse," and, "we've come to place a high value on intellect."

Also, in the days after Katrina when state and local leaders were tangled up in red tape, Jindal materialized with his sleeves rolled up -- without cameras or fanfare -- and said, "What do you need?"

Shortly thereafter, trucks, food and medicine began arriving in St. Bernard, where most of the parish's 27,000 residential units were damaged or destroyed.

Jindal's double-digit lead in the polls has prompted his opponents to play a deck of cards -- from religion to ethnicity. One ad asserted that Jindal, a Catholic, is anti-Protestant. The state Democratic Party has used Jindal's given name, Piyush, clearly aiming to rally ethnophobes.

In an act of desperation, one opponent ran a television ad noting that, yeah, sure, Jindal's got brains, but does he have a heart?

Being too smart hasn't been plaguing Louisiana leadership lately. It couldn't hurt to give brains a chance.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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