Louisiana governor and aspiring president Bobby Jindal hasn’t had a good news week.
The Times Picayune ran a full page cartoon mocking his reach for presidential seal in tandem with a sniping editorial by former Blanco administration official and partisan Democrat editorial writer Bob Mann, who compared Jindal with the scheming but hapless Wile E, Coyote.
A Marist poll was released showing the current order of GOP presidential candidates, which had Jindal in 9th place at 1% tied with the governor of New Mexico.
And then a National Review on-line article ran in which a Republican activist in Louisiana expressed little optimism about the feasibility of successful Jindal for president venture, saying that he would have a tough time winning his own house.
That activist was me. I didn’t realize I was “on the record” while shooting the breeze about numerous topics related to the Republican Party in a hotel lobby barroom in Mobile, Alabama. And while I think Jindal could literally win his household, if only by promising the swing-vote (his kids) additional ice cream outlays, Jindal does have problems with his “extended family”, those being a number of Republican legislators and the Louisiana electorate.
Jindal’s statewide approval ratings are in a sinkhole and the GOP legislative caucus has not exactly been an amen corner for him in the previous session. Jindal is seeking to mitigate some of the damage in the polls and with his base by traveling to all 64 parishes in Louisiana and for the first time in the six years he has served as governor, has invited the members of Louisiana Republican State Committee to visit him at the Governor’s Mansion (I’ll have to see if my food taster is available that night).
Jindal’s presidential ambitions took an indirect hit recently when Texas governor Rick Perry announced that he would not seek another term in Austin amidst speculation that he is going to take another stab at the White House.
This news might be the most bitter for Jindal’s camp. Not only did Jindal leverage his credibility by fronting for Perry in Iowa and South Carolina but you would have to think Jindal was hoping that Perry would steer his deep-pocketed Lone Star supporters to a Jindal 2016 campaign if by some chance that Perry imploded as a candidate. If Perry decides to make a second presidential bid, Jindal would have gained absolutely nothing from the experience.
Jindal biggest mistake was not seeking the White House in 2012. The Louisiana Democratic Party ran up the white flag early in 2011, which would have allowed Jindal to launch a presidential campaign the day after qualifying for governor closed. And conservatives were desperate for a champion.
Mitt Romney was a weak candidate, anyone familiar with Perry knew a meltdown was inevitable and when Tim Pawlenty slinked off the scene after the Iowa straw poll in Ames there wasn’t a credible conservative candidate who could excite the base, a void that was filled by Rick Santorum by default.
It would have been Jindal’s to lose, almost certainly winning Iowa and it would have been a two man race after South Carolina, perhaps finishing Romney off in Florida.
But Jindal played it safe (as always) and counted on Perry not being nominated and Romney losing in the general. And in that calculation, he was spot on. Where Team Jindal miscalculated was ignoring the rise of Republican presidential candidates such as Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz.
Worth mentioning are 2012 vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan and my tentative favorite Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who’s practically a folk hero amongst conservatives for his fight with the unions, hails from a farm state bordering Iowa and has a national fundraising network from the recall campaign.
The GOP candidate field in 2016 will be exponentially stronger than it was in 2012.
The aforementioned are rock star candidates; by comparison Jindal is at best an opening act.
Considering that conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh once described Jindal as the next Reagan, it seems the rising star Jindal has smashed into the earth like a streaking meteor.
Can Jindal salvage his Oval Office dreams?
Former Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum is both an obstacle and an inspiration for Jindal.
Though Santorum has not polled well nationally in early surveys for 2016, he didn’t poll well in 2012 either. Yet the social conservative favorite zoomed from less than 1% to winning the Iowa caucuses and was one uppercut away in the Michigan primary from knocking Romney out of the nomination fight.
Jindal has been doubtlessly collecting business cards and contact information for donors while ostensibly campaigning for other candidates across the fruited plains, thus building a network to tap into. But so has everyone else.
Jindal’s first challenge will be to sell himself to social conservatives, his natural base, as more electable than the GOP runner up (Santorum) from last time.
Secondly Jindal will have to dominate the debates, which played a major role in shaping the 2012 GOP nomination fight.
Thirdly, Perry’s second run for the White House could keep Cruz out. The junior senator from Texas has aggressively worked the national speaking circuit and is Jindal’s number one threat. If Cruz mounts a presidential bid, Jindal will have a hard time gaining any traction.
Fourthly, Jindal would need to win quickly. Assuming the national GOP continues to show deference to the four early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the Louisiana governor needs to poll well in Iowa, finishing no worse than third, and win the Palmetto State, where a loss would fatally discredit a southern conservative candidate.
The question isn’t whether Jindal runs for president in 2016; the question is whether Jindal makes it past the South Carolina primary.