Matt Lewis
http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/07/medium_23jindal.JPGIt is no mistake that Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is giving the response tonight to President Obama's speech. The response has often been used as a way to highlight rising stars, and as an audition for higher office. Jindal, of course, represents both options.

Consider, for example, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's response to President Bush's State of the Union Address in January of 2006.

Granted, Kaine raised eyebrows with his awkward eyebrow tick, but still, Kaine went on to be on Obama's short list of vice presidential picks (Jindal was also mentioned as a running mate for McCain), as well as the current Chairman of the DNC. To be sure, having endorsed Obama early certainly didn't hurt his cause. Still, Kaine's response introduced him to the nation, and helped propel him into becoming a national political figure.

Three years later, it is the intelligent young governor of Louisiana who gets his turn. As a young conservative, an intellectual, and a minority, Jindal is seen by many as the future of the Republican Party -- or, at least, as a way to symbolically turn the page on the Bush years.

Of course, there is speculation that Jindal will run for president in 2012. I'm of the opinion that the better Obama is perceived to have performed as president, the better-positioned Jindal will be to run himself (inasmuch as he is essentially the Republican "response" -- pun intended -- to Obama.)

This, of course, creates a sort-of Catch-22: If Obama is doing well in 2012, Jindal sits-out, but if Obama is faltering in 2012, Republicans may be more inclined to nominate a Palin or a Huckabee.

In any event, Jindal's response tonight sparks talk of the 2012 GOP primary. And since it's never too early to begin speculating, here are some thoughts regarding who might be gearing up for a 2012 run -- which will probably actually begin much, much sooner than we may think. (This list is in no particular order) ...

- Bobby Jindal - The Louisiana governor is widely seen as a smarty, young, conservative intellectual who is a rising star in the GOP.

- Mark Sanford - The South Carolina governor is a solid fiscal conservative who is making national news for his strong opposition to the stimulus.

- Sarah Palin - Her charisma and high-profile land Sarah Palin on any short-list of 2012 candidates. She also recently launched SarahPac. Still, some Palin supporters argue she might do well to focus her immediate attention on Alaska, with an eye on 2016.

- Mitt Romney - I have long argued that the 2008 was Mitt Romney's initiation into the conservative movement, inasmuch as he earned the respect of many of the same conservatives who once bitterly opposed him for the '08 nomination. His experience as a businessman, as well as expertise on economic issues, means that if the economy remains sour, Romney has a big leg-up on the competition.

- Haley Barbour - The Mississippi governor is very popular and is widely seen as having been a great RNC chairman.

- Tim Pawlenty - The governor of Minnesota was on the short-list to be McCain's running mate and is widely seen as the leader of the so-called "Wal-Mart Republican" wing of the GOP.

- Mike Huckabee - The former Arkansas governor's charisma and national profile means he would always be a formidable candidate. Still, he has created enemies among fiscal conservatives, as well as among many of his former rivals in his recent "tell-all" book.

- John McCain - Just because you and I think the idea of McCain running again is ridiculous doesn't mean he does. Since returning to the senate, McCain's conservative positions have led some to speculate he may still have presidential ambitions.

Who did I miss???

Matt Lewis

Matt Lewis is conservative writer and blogger based in Alexandria, VA.

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