BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — While Democrats in Louisiana are largely dodging ties to President Barack Obama this election season, Republicans aren't necessarily embracing Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Asked to grade the Republican governor's performance, GOP congressional contenders have answered with middling marks or avoided the question altogether.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent following criticism of his frequent out-of-state travel and years of budget cuts.
At a Tuesday forum in Monroe, only two of six Republican candidates in the 5th District congressional race said they would support Jindal for president. Three said no, including U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, who defeated a Jindal ally to win his seat last year.
Republican Zach Dasher hired Jindal's chief fundraiser and political consultant for his campaign, but he wouldn't commit to the governor's presidential bid.
"I support anyone who wants to run," he said. Asked after the event to clarify his position, Dasher said it's too early to choose a presidential candidate.
In the 6th District congressional race, even Jindal's former coastal restoration chief, Republican Garret Graves, hedged when asked to rate his ex-boss on a 1-to-10 scale.
"There are things out there you can look at, things that have gone well. And there are things you can look at that I believe are mistakes," Graves said Monday at a Baton Rouge candidate forum.
Other Republican candidates gave the governor lukewarm ratings between 4 and 6.
Pearson Cross, head of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said GOP contenders have to tread carefully.
"Republicans still consider Bobby Jindal one of their own, so you can't bash him. But at the same time, if you laud him too much or sound completely supportive, then you become responsible for his policies, which are unpopular," Cross said.
Jindal has attended events for Republican candidates around the U.S. while avoiding them at home.
Asked to respond about the job ratings from candidates, Jindal spokesman Mike Reed said Wednesday in a statement: "Clearly we are not being graded on our economic performance, because our job creation record is second to none."
Reed said the state's job growth ranks fourth in the nation and its per capita income is at its highest level ever.
The governor's strongest support came from U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, the leading Republican running against Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu. At a TV debate in Shreveport, Cassidy gave Jindal a 7 on a 10-point scale, saying: "He's taken some tough licks."
Seeing a campaign angle, Landrieu has started linking Cassidy and Jindal in her speeches, the way Cassidy repeatedly ties Landrieu to Obama, whose favorability ratings are in the same range as Jindal's in Louisiana.
Associated Press Writer Kevin McGill contributed to this story from New Orleans.