GOP’s Steele Touts Four Rising Stars

By Danny

Feb 3, 2009 9:13am

ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports:             R.N.C. Chair Michael Steele is touting Govs. Bobby Jindal (La.), Mark Sanford (S.C.), Tim Pawlenty (Minn.), and Sarah Palin (Alaska) as rising stars. Ferdous Al-Faruque/ ABC News
Newly elected GOP chair Michael Steele is touting four Republicans under the age of 50 as rising stars in the party.

"I’d say certainly Bobby Jindal, Governor Sanford, Pawlenty, Palin," Steele said Sunday. "We have a whole host of folks out there who are beginning to emerge on the scene and will over the next couple of years I think redefine this party in a way that will be very good for us long term."

Steele, who was elected chair of the Republican National Committee on Friday, heaped praise on the governors of Louisiana, South Carolina, Minnesota, and Alaska during a Sunday interview with Fox’s Chris Wallace.

The RNC chair was specifically asked to name three Republian leaders under the age of 50 whom he sees as "new faces."

He ended up providing four names, all of them governors.

Jindal, 37, is the youngest Republican on Steele’s list. The Louisiana governor, who is up for re-election in 2011, has signaled that he will not run for president in 2012. But he continues to be a big draw for his party. In March, he is scheduled to headline the National Republican Congressional Committee’s fundraising dinner. Shortly after last year’s election, he popped up in Iowa, prompting pundits to ask if he is the GOP’s version of Barack Obama. A former Rhodes scholar, Jindal is well versed in health care. Before being elected to Congress in 2004, he served as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and later served as executive director of a 17-member panel charged with devising plans to reform Medicare. In 2001, he was appointed Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Grover Norquist, the president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, lauds Jindal’s work on lowering taxes and government transparency and confidently predicts that the Roman Catholic son of Indian immigrants will one day be president.

Sanford, 48, is a low-tax, low-spending conservative who is not afraid to clash with his own party. In the wake of the GOP’s drubbing at the polls last year, Sanford has been arguing that "America didn’t turn away from conservatism, they turned away from many who faked it." He is an outspoken opponent of the economic stimulus package. "Borrowing from Medicare, Social Security, our grandkids and the Chinese to remedy a problem created by too much borrowing strikes me as odd, and hardly the ‘change’ Americans really want," wrote Sanford in a post-election op-ed for CNN.com. He is using his position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association to increase his visibility around the country. Later this month, he is slated to address California’s Republican Party convention in Sacramento.

Pawlenty, 48, identifies himself as hailing from the "Sam’s Club" wing of the Republican Party. "We want to be the party of Sam’s Club, not jut the country club," Pawlenty is fond of saying. On economics, the son-of-a-truck-driver wraps his proposals under the theme of delivering better "value" for middle-class families. During last year’s campaign, he voiced support for the bailout of the financial industry. He now is taking a more populist tack. "In Washington," Pawlenty said during last month’s State of the State address, "they’re sending billions of dollars to Wall Street. Here in Minnesota, I want us committed to helping Main Street." Pawlenty used his annual speech to urge state lawmakers to cut Minnesota’s corporate tax rate in half.

Palin, 44, is by far the best known on Steele’s list. During her vice presidential run last year, the Alaska governor consistently drew much larger crowds than Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. She recently launched a federal Political Action Committee, SarahPAC, that she can use to dole out money to candidates around the country. The organization’s mission statement highlights her work on energy independence, an issue she has focused on in Alaska. As the mother of a baby with special needs, she has a strong reservoir of support among abortion rights opponents. The downside of the exposure that Palin received last year is that 60 percent of voters did not believe she was qualified to be president on Election Day 2008, according to the exit poll conducted by a consortium of news organizations. ABC News’ David Chalian and Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.

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