Could 2016 presidential candidates handle a Katrina?

  • Bobby Jindal

    Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, center, visits the Medical Special Needs Shelter Monday, Sept. 1, 2008 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge, La. The shelter, set up as a medical center for evacuees from Hurricane Gustav, has 200 patients and 132 caregivers. AP Photo/USA Today, Tim J. Mueller, Pool

    Jindal was still a member of the U.S. House of Representatives when Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, but he was in charge during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008 as well as during the BP oil spill in 2010 that threatened the Louisiana coastline.

    As someone who took the helm of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals at just 24 years old, Jindal was known for his management skills and faced high expectations when he stepped into the governor's office. And when Gustav hit in August 2008, just eight months after Jindal took office, he was ready.

    Hurricane Gustav evacuees Fabiola Ribeiro, left, and her mother, Cassia Ribeiro, with their dog Nina, wait for gas and the opportunity to return home at a gas station in Slidell, La., Sept. 2, 2008.
    AP Photo/Eric Gay

    "He was on the scene, he was a great presence, he was constantly leaning forward," John Kiefer, who directs the Masters of Public Administration Program at the University of New Orleans, told CBS News. "I think he certainly has a better understanding of the national emergency management system than did his predecessor, [former Louisiana Gov.] Kathleen Blanco."

    His administration successfully evacuated 1.9 million people from the coastal parishes of the state, which then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said spared the state from having to make dramatic rescues.

    Kiefer praised Jindal for surrounding himself with competent people in the offices of homeland security and emergency management, and also said that he has created a more robust infrastructure for the state by updating levy systems and pumping stations.

    Where he may have been less successful, Kiefer said, is in budgeting enough money for social services after a disaster. He explained that Louisiana's budget structure and Jindal's focus on balancing the budget has led to deep cuts in education and health care.

    "We really have a shortfall in social resilience and particularly with regard to social services post-disaster," he said.

    Jindal also seemed in control during the oil spill, and appeared to take the crisis more seriously than former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, his neighboring governor who urged people not to cancel their Gulf Coast beach vacations. Jindal took an active role, giving news conferences, touring damage, and fighting with the federal government over the cleanup.

    President Barack Obama is greeted by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, right, as he arrives at Louis Armstrong International New Orleans Airport en route to the Gulf Coast region where he will visit damage caused by the BP oil well spill, Sunday, May 2, 2010.
    President Barack Obama is greeted by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, right, as he arrives at Louis Armstrong International New Orleans Airport en route to the Gulf Coast region where he will visit damage caused by the BP oil well spill, Sunday, May 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
    AP Photo

    In particular, Jindal clashed with the federal government and even scientists in his own state over his desire to build a series of sand berms to capture the oil coming ashore. The National Oil Spill Commission would ultimately conclude the 36 miles of berms were "underwhelmingly effective" and the $220 million price tag "overwhelmingly expensive" (Jindal responded that the report was a "partisan revisionist history at taxpayer expense").

    Still, Kiefer said that the state was in a tough spot because it had to depend on BP and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for so much of the clean up.

    "You have to admire Jindal for at least fighting the food fight and taking a good chance," he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.