Lately, the amount of attention Bobby Jindal is getting seems to be on a level normally reserved for top-tier presidential candidates. Jindal set off a firestorm with his comments in Britain about Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe, and his quip about how the threat from medieval Christians is now under control in response to President Obama’s “High Horse” speech earned him a fresh round of headlines. And of course, in between Jindal’s camp was rocked by a host of stories about his record with Louisiana’s budget that on balance were not helpful to his cause.
And that came after his speech at The Response, the prayer rally at LSU that so angered the atheist Left, in which Jindal planted his flag firmly with the Christian conservative crowd by stating that “our God wins” at the end of the Biblical story.
Then there is today’s news. Gail Gitcho, a prominent staffer for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, has now signed on with Jindal’s Super PAC – indicating that he’s seen by at least some in the GOP establishment as a potential dark horse in the 2016 race.
That all looks like Jindal ought to be considered along with Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie as a member of the 2016 Republican upper crust, right?
Not according to Jim Geraghty, who writes the Campaign Spot blog at National Review. Geraghty…
“If I were to decide to run [for president], it would have nothing to do with polls or fundraising or whatever,” Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal says to a group of reporters munching on Chick-fil-A lunch at an upstairs conference room at the Heritage Foundation. “When I started my first race, I was at 2 percent, which was within the margin of error.”
If Jindal does decide to run, he’ll need to perform that difficult climb again. A Fox News poll conducted in late January asked Republicans nationwide whom they preferred as the 2016 Republican nominee. Jindal received 2 percent. When Mitt Romney — who has since declared he won’t be running — was removed from the mix, the Louisiana governor received . . . 3 percent.
The most recent Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers found Jindal at . . . 2 percent.
The most recent Bloomberg poll of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire found Jindal at . . . 3 percent.
He notes that while Jindal generally has positive approval ratings among Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, that’s not translating into actual votes. But quotes from Jindal in Geraghty’s piece make it sound like the governor is willing to put his rather low place on the current totem pole aside in favor of a belief that an out-of-the-blue candidate is going to win the 2016 race…
“I live in a state that is farther way from major media markets, I get it,” Jindal says. “But the reality is, I don’t think this election will be decided by the insiders.” He continued: “I don’t think the voters want the donors, the political consultants, the establishment to pick their candidate, to clear the field. I know that there are a lot of Republicans that wring their hands and say, ‘Well, this is messy.’ We might have too many debates, it might go on too long – well, the reality is, democracy is messy.”
“There’s going to be severe backlash if the party leaders think they’re going to get to pick the candidate,” Jindal said. “I think this is going to be a long process. We have a deep bench, and we have more credible candidates than we’ve had in a long time. There’s not a sense that there’s anybody who’s preordained. In previous elections, it was almost as if among Republicans, if you had lost the last one, or if you had been awaiting around patiently, it was now your turn.”
Jindal is correct that this is the cycle where the party’s base voters will get to pick the candidate rather than the big donors and party bosses, or perhaps more accurately that the base voters will get to present the list of candidates who can win. That’s a reverse of the way things have previously worked – it used to be that you couldn’t run unless you’d been given the approval of the establishment and then you’d compete for support among the base, whereas now the truly viable candidates (Walker, Rubio, Cruz, Paul) all come from or are at least seen positively by the Tea Party or the conservative base. Romney dropped out when it looked pretty clear that he was going to struggle to unite the party behind the idea of his nomination, and Bush and Christie have even larger problems.
The problem is, it’s not enough that this cycle will favor a “base” candidate. There are lots of excellent “base” candidates, and Jindal doesn’t stand out from that field.
The voters see that. And that’s why, while Jindal generally gets approval from primary voters in those early states it’s not translating into a lot of movement in the polls. He’s going to be a second or third choice by a lot of those primary voters, which means he’s really running for Vice President or a cabinet post.