For all who lost bets that Bobby Jindal would run for president in 2008 and 2012, take solace in that the third time will be the charm.
Constitutionally prohibited from running for governor in 2015 and having stated that he intends to finish out his second term as governor, Jindal’s sights are clearly set on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
His comments about serving out the entirety of his time as Louisiana’s executive also ends speculation Jindal was considering a bid against Democratic US Senator Mary Landrieu, who is up for re-election in 2014.
Though Jindal would be the strongest possible Republican opponent to Landrieu, the state’s senior senator has demonstrated a knack for pulling out victories against GOP headwinds and the risk for Jindal far outweighs the reward.
Just ask Virginia’s George Allen about the wisdom of chancing a tough election on the eve of becoming a presidential candidate.
By becoming head of the Republican Governors’ Association, Jindal finally recovered the national platform he fumbled in 2009 with his widely mocked rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s maiden State of the Union address and was denied by hurricanes that kept him off the podium at consecutive Republican conventions.
Jindal didn’t wait long before using his national campaign office to plant his flag, broadcasting his tart analysis of what went wrong for the GOP in 2012 and heaving stinging criticisms upon the party’s standard-bearer in the late general election.
The nation’s first Indian-American governor opined that the Republican Party in 2012 was the “Party of Stupid”, harsh words aimed at his fellow pro-lifer Republicans whose brash remarks related to conceptions resulting from rape hung like a festering albatross around their necks and the party in general.
Jindal also slammed Romney’s campaign operation for over-relying on the candidate’s biography (a curious critique by Jindal since he often works in personal references in almost all of his speeches) and for failing to offer the electorate an alternative vision beyond not being Obama.
The release of Romney’s “gifts” comments led to another scathing barrage from Jindal.
One of the ironies of Jindal’s new political responsibilities as head of the RGA is that he will assist with the re-election of someone who could potentially emerge as a rival for the party’s presidential nomination, New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Granted, Christie’s ludicrously effusive praise for and photo op collaboration with President Obama has depreciated his presidential stock considerably and it’s unlikely the two will be pursuing the same breed of Republican presidential primary voter.
The other big task Jindal will have is carefully navigating Virginia’s divisive intra-party battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination between Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and two-term Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling.
Cuccinelli is a conservative favorite; Bolling served as chairman of Romney’s Virginia campaign. Jindal’s skills as a peacemaker and a unifier will be tested when he has to bring the party together to support whichever candidate clinches the nomination.
If you read Jindal’s words carefully, you will note that at no point he conceded that the GOP was too conservative but instead took issue with salesmanship. Jindal’s Republican panacea is based on changing style not substance and is an indication that presidential candidate Jindal will be actively cultivating the party’s social conservatives and evangelical base.
Going into the new presidential cycle, Jindal has to avoid wilting as Senator Marco Rubio attracts an inordinate amount of the media spotlight and dislodge former Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum’s hold on social conservatives.
Jindal also has to expand his donor base to financially compete with the other major GOP presidential contenders, who developed national fundraising operations in their state campaigns.
Jindal’s public upbraiding of Romney is more than an election post-mortem; it’s an appeal to the millions of Republican voters who did more to keep the primaries and caucuses going than the cash-strapped Santorum campaign was capable of doing with their limited resources.
The Romney-Republican base marriage was an unhappy one from the start and Jindal’s comments are a play for the better, more conservative half of the shotgun union.
The good news for Jindal is that if the 2016 primary/caucus calendar resembles the 2008 schedule, Iowa and South Carolina will provide him high profile, early venues to break out as the leading alternative to Rubio.
Until then, Jindal has to contend with the Democratic Party’s much-ballyhooed technological turn-out terror in two important gubernatorial elections in 2013 while raising his national stature in the Floridian’s shadow.