Washington Matters


Rising Republican Stars -- Yes, Republican


OK, Republicans are bracing for a difficult election and may lose big in congressional races. But that won't stop new stars from rising in the GOP firmament.

There are a handful of bright, young and ambitious Republican lawmakers worth keeping your eye on. They could be party kingpins and polishers of the GOP brand before long....   

Some of the names are becoming a little more familiar; others less so. At any rate, though, all of them could be stepping up onto the GOP stage, especially as the party looks to recover ground and rekindle its fire after the election, regardless of who wins the presidential race. Near certain congressional losses alone will force the party to take a fresh look at itself and its young prospects.

Here are a few to watch:

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Gov. Bobby Jindal, La. -- At the age of 37, Jindal, who is of Indian descent, is more than a little accomplished. Before easily winning the governor's race, he served two terms in the House. He also served as director of the state's Health and Hospitals Dept., having been appointed at age 24 after completing a Rhodes scholarship. His biggest legislative accomplishment in the House was in sponsoring legislation that has since become law opening up 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore drilling.

Rep. Adam Putnam, Fla. Elected to Congress at age 29, Putnam is now finishing his fourth term and has already gained recongition and kudos in the party for his work as chairman of the House GOP Conference. In that role, Putnam has much input into developing Republican strategy, message and themes. The energy debate will factor closely in Putnam's likely rise. He thinks it could present the greatest difference between the parties for several years.

Rep. Eric Cantor, Va. Considered a potential vice presidential pick for McCain this year, Cantor, 45, has made tracks in Congress after being elected in 2000. He's serving now as deputy whip, but many expect this to be a way station on the path to something higher in the leadership one day -- especially if there is a shake up next year.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minn. Also on McCain's short list for VP pick, Pawlenty could well be a leading Republican national figure in coming years. He says the party needs to appeal better to working class voters, or as he calls them, "Sam's Club" Republicans. Pawlenty is amiable and exceedingly polite, not a firebrand with revolutionary zeal, but increasingly respected. Pawlenty is also environmentally focused, saying the party needs to see the value in being out in front of environmental and conservation issues more. 

Sen. John Thune, S.D. The 47-year-old senator is making strides in Republcian circles since defeating Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004. Soon after being elected, Senate Republicans voted him into the leadership as a deputy whip. Telegenic and seemingly always "on message", he could well serve as a national spokesman.

Rep. Zach Wamp, Tenn. If Republicans are serious about tightening the reins on federal spending and limiting government growth, Wamp will be one of their champions. The 51-year-old lawmaker, an energetic, born-again Christian popular with evangelicals, has been on a mission to cut spending throughout his14-year congressional career, much of which has been on the Appropriations Committee. He rankled his leadership by trying in 2003 to convert President Bush's speinding request for Iraq into a loan. He's been an early promoter of alternative energy. Wamp is also a self described fitness freak, sponsoring legislation, for instance, that would give special tax breaks to companies who actually pay their employees to work out. He''ll probably run for governor in 2010.

Gov. Sarah Palin, Alaska. The 44-year-old Republican governor toppled an Alaska political institution when she defeated Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski. She is youthful and energetic, well-versed in the energy debate, and possibly on to larger things in a few years. The party needs people like Palin to help it expand, especially with younger voters and women. Palin owns a commercial fishing company and earlier was a state-wide sports reporter.

Are there some you think we're missing? Let us know in the comment field.

 




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