It’s really easy to pick on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal these days. Whether it be the now-infamous response to president Obama’s first State of the Union speech, or his “I’m not running for president, I promise” book tour, the past two years the governor and his political team have left pundits with plenty of fodder to use in their now seemingly-daily denigrations of poor Bobby. Now with a new public opinion poll showing the Governor’s job approval rating at its lowest, less than a year before his reelection, the disdain of Louisiana voters is beginning to rear its head.
But it wasn’t always this way. At the beginning of his term, Jindal was blessed with stratospheric approval ratings. His special session to deal with the state’s ethics woes was getting national attention and winning over the hearts and minds of good government watchdogs across the country. Pundits were touting his ability to tackle Louisiana’s health care crisis. Even in the midst of the oil spill, the Governor was able to garner support for his leadership. Jindal was on top of the world.
So what happened? How has Louisiana’s wunder-kid fallen from grace with so many voters? As referenced by the title of this article, Jindal fell prey to one of the biggest pitfalls of so many elected officials; forgetting that form follows function. In other words, during his attempt to create a national profile Jindal, creating the perception that his job is second to his career, the Governor has forgotten that the best way to create a brand is generate results. And the opportunities have been there. With his background in healthcare, Jindal was poised to create a microcosm of health reform in Louisiana that rebuked the President’s proposed healthcare legislation in 2009. Instead of championing getting rid of the Lieutenant Governor’s office as a way for our state to save money, Jindal could have fought the legislature and lead the movement to get rid of the protections our state constitution has on frivolous spending—and there are countless other examples of projects, that if completed, would give the Governor super-hero status here in the state while still tickling the salivary glands of the national pundits.
But that’s not all; Republicans swept the house earlier this month by riding a wave of skepticism over government spending. Americans nationwide are counting on their elected officials to quell out of control spending and balance the country’s budget. As a governor in a state that has a huge but very manageable deficit, Jindal is in the position to personify fiscal conservatism and become the poster-child that the GOP seems so desperate to find. Successfully spearheading this issue would be greater political capital than any book, more important than any endorsement by other governors, and more important to the Republican message than any Tea Party rally. Yet despite this opportunity, Bobby seems content in letting others like State Treasurer John Kennedy get the limelight, and more importantly—letting Mr. Kennedy actually solve the problem.
So where does that leave Bobby Jindal? Despite all the fund raisers, press stops, and book signings, Bobby hasn’t come close to the success he had in the first half of his term. By focusing more on the glitz and glamour of campaigning than giving voters tangible results he has put himself on defense, trying to excuse his travels to voters during a fiscal crisis and trying to explain away his campaigning and convince everyone that he has the job he wants.