(Age: 37; Last year's rank: 34)*
Even before Election Day, political pundits were fantasizing about the "Republican Obama." Bobby Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants, who last year shocked nearly everybody by becoming Louisiana's first nonwhite governor since Reconstruction, may indeed prove he has the chops to run in 2012. Unlike Dubya and Sarah Palin, Jindal's got intellectual cred: He won a Rhodes scholarship after studying at Brown, worked at the super-selective McKinsey consulting firm, and won plaudits running Louisiana's health department—the state's largest agency—at just 24. But the Hindu turned Catholic plays the red-state "values" game just as well, winning over Evangelicals with his fierce opposition to abortion and gay marriage and support for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. "He's incredibly attractive as a current and future leader of the party," says GOP strategist Alex Vogel. "He's a case study in where Republicans should be. He reaches across racial lines, and rather than having campaigns based on raw ideology, Jindal has run and won on the strength of his competency." In other words, he's more than just the guy you'd like to have a beer with.