WASHINGTON -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has been putting his mark on Senate races around the country, expanding his sphere of influence should he decide to run for president in 2016. So far, he's endorsed GOP Senate candidates in Arkansas, Iowa and North Carolina.
But in one tight Senate contest, Jindal is noticeably absent: In his home state, he hasn't yet endorsed a Republican challenger to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is considered Landrieu's toughest competition, and even has a slight edge over her in recent polls. There's also Air Force Col. Rob Maness, who has tried to position himself as the most conservative candidate in the race.
Louisiana has what's known as a "jungle primary" system, meaning that all candidates, regardless of party, will appear on the ballot together in November. There is no traditional party primary. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters advance to a Dec. 6 runoff.
If Republicans split their votes between Maness and Cassidy, this set-up could potentially benefit Landrieu.
But Jindal has yet to weigh in and lend a hand to either Republican in their campaign to oust Landrieu. And because there's technically no party primary, Jindal may end up not endorsing anyone at all.
Pearson Cross, the head of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, speculated it was because Jindal is "risk averse."
"Unlike [Louisiana's GOP senator] David Vitter, who weighed in some days ago, Jindal would rather not intervene in a race between two Republicans and thereby alienate some portion of the GOP base," said Cross, referring to Vitter's endorsement of Cassidy.
"He's probably more ideologically compatible with Rob Maness, judging from recent appearances and statements, but most of the smart money is on Bill Cassidy making the strongest run against Mary Landrieu," Cross added. "If he supported Maness against Cassidy he would then, should Cassidy win, be faced with someone he antagonized. Hence, refuse to pick and get on board in the run-off (if there is one)."
Jindal may simply not want to intervene in primaries. His endorsements of Joni Ernst in Iowa and Thom Tillis in North Carolina came after they won their crowded primaries.
Cross also noted that Jindal did not intervene in the battle for Louisiana secretary of state in 2011, which was between two Republicans, or the all-GOP lieutenant governor's race that same year.
In addition, in 2010, Jindal failed to endorse incumbent Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) in either the Republican primary or the general election. Many political observers in Louisiana think this was caused by a personal feud leading back to Vitter's "D.C. Madam" prostitution scandal in 2007.
Jindal did, however, endorse Cassidy in his bid for Congress in 2008.
Neither Jindal nor the two Republican Senate candidates returned a request for comment.
The consequences of this year's Louisiana Senate race could help determine whether Republicans retake the Senate in 2014 -- something Jindal most likely would like to see happen should he run for president. The GOP needs to pick up six seats in order to take Senate control away from Democrats.
Other potential presidential candidates have been less shy about endorsing in primaries. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), for example, have both been jumping in and picking favorites.
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