Jindal vs. Crist: A Battle for the Ideological Heart of the GOP

| Mon Feb. 23, 2009 9:56 AM EST

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) is a hardline conservative who opposes the stimulus, going so far as to turn down a small portion of Louisiana's stimulus funds. Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) is a moderate who supports the stimulus, going so far as to campaign on its behalf with President Obama. (Crist is good on the environment, too.)

Both Jindal and Crist are preparing themselves for 2012 and 2016. Sunday, they appeared on the morning talk shows and the contrast between them couldn't have been clearer. Here's a summary from MSNBC:

In dueling interviews, we saw one governor -- Bobby Jindal -- rooted mostly in a conservative ideology that plays very well in the South and with the base, but not in some other parts of the country and not with many swing voters. "I think we just have a fundamental disagreement here. I don't think the best way to do that is for the government to tax and borrow more money," Jindal said. "I think the best thing they could've done, for example, was to cut taxes on things like capital gains, the lower tax brackets, to get the private sector spending again." And we saw another governor -- Charlie Crist -- rooted in what he claims is pragmatism in a key presidential battleground state. "I'm a Florida Republican. And in the Florida way, we work together in a bipartisan fashion to do what's right for the people. That's really what it's all about," he said. This has become perhaps the key question for the Republican Party: In which direction does it want to go? The GOP in the short term will divide on this question: Is the government more of a problem or more of a problem-solver?

Republican primary voters value ideology over pragmatism. General election swing voters value pragmatism over ideology. So which governor is better positioned for a run for the White House? The success (or failure) of the stimulus will almost certainly decide.