Governors’ responses to oil differ



 The ambitious Republican governors of Mississippi and Louisiana are a study in contrasts as an oil spill threatens coastal economies still reeling from Hurricane Katrina.

Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, a well-connected former Washington lobbyist, has calmly said the oil slick looming offshore is just a sheen in most places and there’s no reason for people to panic.

Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, meanwhile, has questioned oil giant BP PLC’s response capability and the federal government’s plans to clean up crude spewing from a well blown out by an offshore oil-rig explosion April 20. He activated the Louisiana National Guard and called on coastal parish leaders to draw up their own response plans after saying he couldn’t get answers from BP or the Coast Guard.

Both governors are considered possible 2012 presidential candidates, and their responses to the spill may say more about where they’ve been than where they hope to end up.

Jindal’s predecessor was Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat who chose not to run for re-election after she was heavily criticized for appearing indecisive when Katrina struck in August 2005. Jindal was in Congress at the time.

“This oil literally threatens our way of life,” Jindal said. “Here in Louisiana, we’re going to do everything we can do. We’re going to do what it takes to protect our way of life.”

Barbour, 62, is a second-term governor who was in office during Katrina and was widely praised for his response to the storm. He’s now chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Barbour has said the oil spill is “not Armageddon,” but he believes news coverage has hurt tourism in his state.

“Come on down here and play golf, enjoy the beach, catch a fish and pay a little sales tax while you’re here,” Barbour said Wednesday during a televised news conference in Biloxi.

Though Barbour downplays the possibility of a 2012 presidential run, he hasn’t dismissed it. Jindal, 38, said he’s only running for a second term as governor in 2011, not president, but the son of Indian immigrants is considered a sharp politician with a national future as his party seeks to diversify its public image.

In Mississippi, Barbour has been juggling oil-spill briefings with his response to two consecutive weekends of severe weather, starting with a deadly April 24 tornado that cut a 149-mile swath through his state.


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