SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told South Dakota Republicans on Friday the nation needs a change in leadership so that federal spending can be cut, jobs can be created and young people get a chance to succeed.
Jindal, mentioned as a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said President Barack Obama has run up record deficits without improving the economy or putting enough Americans back to work. Young people are being saddled with a skyrocketing federal debt they will have to pay off, but they have bleak job prospects, he said.
"We owe these children the chance to pursue the American dream. We cannot mortgage their future," Jindal said in a speech to the South Dakota Republican Party's state convention.
Jindal urged the South Dakota Republicans to vote for Romney in November, saying Obama has failed to live up to his promises to revive the economy, which was in crisis when he took office in 2009 following the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and turmoil on Wall Street.
Jindal also praised South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard for cutting spending to balance the state budget, reducing regulations that hinder businesses and seeking to improve education by giving bonuses to top teachers. Republicans want to make those same moves in the federal government, he said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said Jindal is ignoring the fact that the economic crisis began under Obama's predecessor, former President George W. Bush. The U.S was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month toward the end of the Bush presidency, but employment has grown in the past two years under Obama, Nesselhuf said.
"The idea that Gov. Jindal is pitching is to go back to policies we know don't work," Nesselhuf said.
Nesselhuf said Jindal was wrong to praise Daugaard for seeking merit pay for teachers when the South Dakota governor instead should be trying to raise general state financial aid to school districts to offset cuts made a year ago.
Jindal's speech echoed themes Rep. Kristi Noem, South Dakota's lone U.S. House member, talked about in a speech to the convention earlier Friday.
The South Dakota Democratic Party has said Noem attended just four of 20 Agricultural Committee meetings since being appointed to the committee a year ago. But Noem told convention delegates that South Dakota Democrats are falsely accusing her of missing too many House committee hearings as a tactic to avoid talking about federal spending and other issues.
Noem said she has answered criticism that she failed to show up at House Agriculture Committee, so Democrats are now complaining that she hasn't talked much at committee meetings.
"There is enough talk in Washington, D.C. What we need is more action," Noem said in a brief speech to the convention. "I didn't run for office to give speeches. I ran to get things done, and I have."
Noem said she has succeeded in her first term in blocking federal agencies from regulating dust on farms and preventing young people from doing most jobs on farms. She said she also has led the effort to get federal agencies to do more to fight the mountain pine beetles that are killing trees in the Black Hills.
Democratic House candidate Matt Varilek, a former aide to Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, repeated his criticism Friday that Noem has failed to show up to most Agriculture Committee meetings.
"I'm running because I think South Dakota deserves a leader who stands up for middle-class people, defends and strengthens traditional Medicare and aggressively and energetically advocates for South Dakota's interests in Congress, including in committees," Varilek said.
Varilek said Noem has voted to privatize Medicare and cut taxes for the highest earners. Varilek has said he would keep most of the tax cuts passed a decade ago, but would end tax cuts for people earning high incomes.
Noem has said she missed some Agriculture Committee meetings because of conflicts with other committees and meetings with South Dakota constituents.
She said Friday she has voted with House Republicans to overhaul Medicare because it will go broke in nine years unless something is done. Republicans have proposed converting Medicare into a system that mainly relies on private health insurance plans to cover future retirees. Beneficiaries would get a fixed payment from the government, with low-income seniors in poor health receiving more.
Noem said she and the other Republicans elected to the House two years ago have started the process of cutting federal spending.
"Before, everyone was talking about how much more could we spend. We have changed that to how much do we need to cut, how much do we need to tighten our belt," she said.
Noem said she also is working to make sure the new farm bill will retain a livestock disaster program, encourage land conservation and cut red tape that has hindered efforts to fight the pine beetle infestations.
Noem, a former state lawmaker who defeated Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin two years ago, starts with an advantage over Varilek because South Dakota is a heavily Republican state and her campaign has raised more than Varilek.