This past weekend, U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La., won 53 percent of the vote in an eleven-way race to be the next Louisiana governor. Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants to the United States, will become not only the first nonwhite Republican governor since Reconstruction, but at only 36 years old, he will be the youngest sitting governor in the country.

It begs the question: How did a young, arguably inexperienced, Republican congressman win in a state in which the Bush administration and Republicans in general have been vilified for their handling of Hurricane Katrina? After all, isn’t this supposed to be one of the worst times to be a Republican? Aren’t the conservative movement and the Republican Party on the brink of self-destruction?

Skeptics will say it was the fact that no matter how bad Mr. Bush handled the situation, outgoing Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco handled it much worse. While such a statement is undeniably true, it does not account for the fact that Ms. Blanco was not on the ballot. There were other extremely well-funded Democrats who criticized her handling of Katrina and its aftermath. I suspect the real reason that Mr. Jindal is now the governor-elect of Louisiana is that he ran on a message of competency and — most importantly — a message of hope.

Mr. Jindal won because he had the ability to articulate a message of hope for the future. He won by showing the people of Louisiana it was possible to bring about change and make improvements toa state that had been so badly beaten by nature. The overall message of optimism is extremely important for challengers seeking to win high public office, and this was something that Mr. Jindal has in spades.

He is the epitome of the modern American dream and the success that even a first-generation American citizen can achieve. He didn’t win by demonizing the other opponents or scaring the people of Louisiana — Mr. Jindal won by offering the people hope and optimism for the future.

And therein lies the key to victory for Republicans in the 2008 elections. We won’t win by scaring the American people with threats that only we can prevent the next Sept. 11. We won’t win by scaring Christian conservatives, telling them Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., would be far worse than any candidate we put up against her. The only way we will win is by offering the people a hopeful and optimistic message for the future.

None of this is new. President Eisenhower won by offering hope, as did President Nixon — at least hope for an end to the Vietnam War — and none of us should forget that President Reagan won by claiming that America’s best days were not behind her. President Bill Clinton won as “the man from Hope.” Very simply, Americans like to hear their presidential candidates, and consequently their presidents, speak positively about the future.

For the Republican candidates in 2008, the issue should not be Mr. Bush, nor should it be the days of Mr. Clinton. The focus should be the future. No one should whitewash the fact that there have been mistakes in the Iraq war and the War on Terror, but we cannot dwell on those failures. Candidates must provide a positive view of what they will do better and more effectively.

Mr. Jindal’s win in Louisiana is not an aberration. It is the result of not only hard work, but an effective and positive message for the future of his state. With all the bluster and hyperbole from the Republican candidates for president about who really is the best successor to Mr. Reagan, it would be nice for just one of them to remember what it was that made him so great: his unwavering faith that together we can make America even better than it was today or yesterday.

It is time for morning again in America.

Mike Hahn ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in history and political science.