In the NFL Draft the last person selected is known as “Mr. Irrelevant”, a reference to the unlikely prospect that the college player will make the team’s roster.
Bobby Jindal enters the presidential nomination fight as a sort of “Mr. Irrelevant”. The Louisiana governor’s White House campaign announcement was delayed by the contentious legislative session and Jindal’s relatively late start has hurt his poll numbers.
Jindal is currently polling at the back of the pack, if mentioned at all, in recent surveys. With so many candidates in the field at this point, stagnant poll standing could lead to Jindal being excluded from the leadoff debate in August where Fox News is inviting only the top ten candidates to participate.
Being kept out of the early debates could asphyxiate Jindal’s candidacy just as it did fellow Louisianan Buddy Roemer’s presidential run in the previous cycle.
And though his campaign has been churlishly mocked by local Democrats and their aligned interest groups and discounted by the Louisiana (and Staten Island- can’t forget the TP) media, there remains a path for Jindal to the nomination, though it is very narrow and it will require some spectacular meltdowns by the competition- hardly unprecedented behavior within Republican presidential candidate circles.
The Jindal campaign is predicated on three things: Iowa, Iowa and Iowa.
The son of Indian immigrants must perform well in the Hawkeye State lest his candidacy gets flushed out early along with those of about a half-dozen that will not make it to the New Hampshire primary, let alone South Carolina, Nevada or Super Tuesday.
The biggest problem facing Jindal is the crowded competition on the right flank. While Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is recognized as the leading conservative candidate in the race (at the moment), Jindal has to fight through and/or outlast a half dozen ideological peers before he can even threaten the bane of Big Labor.
The immediate problem for Jindal is former Texas governor Rick Perry, the very man Jindal enthusiastically supported and accompanied while crisscrossing the frozen fields of Iowa in December 2011.
Perry’s decision to take a second crack at the White House has to be a source of great disappointment to Jindal, as the latter was probably calculating that the Texan would repay Jindal’s loyalty through an endorsement in 2016 and most importantly providing access to Lone Star State donors with deep pockets.
Perry, who serves up bleeding red meat in his stump speeches that play very well to grassroots activists, is a roadblock that Jindal has to overcome sooner than later.
After Perry Jindal has to contend with the social conservatives who had won the last two Iowa caucuses: ex-Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum. Though the mainstream media might be tempted to group the two together, they have different appeals.
Huckabee is a folksy Baptist preacher who is skilled at retail campaigning while Santorum is a standoffish politician who has more cred on social conservative issues, particularly on Common Core. Huckabee is the better salesman while Santorum is stouter ideologically and both are sitting on pockets of votes that would line up behind Jindal in a heartbeat.
And then there is Dr. Ben Carson, who has a plainspoken conservative message and an inspiring personal narrative. However getting beyond these four candidates would merely put Jindal at the top of the second tier contenders.
Perhaps the greatest threat to Jindal is Texas US Senator Ted Cruz. The TEA Party favorite never stopped campaigning after being elected to Congress’ upper chamber and he has been the face of determined opposition to the Obama Administration’s agenda, at times to Cruz’s own detriment.
If Jindal cannot upend Cruz in Iowa, then his campaign will not leave the frozen cornfields and his campaign will close about the same time the curtain drops on the Comus Ball on Mardi Gras night (which was the very night Jindal delivered his infamous State of the Union rebuttal).
Santorum is not just a threat to Jindal, but he’s also an inspiration. Aside from then-Michigan congressman Thaddeus McCotter, no candidate for the Republican presidential nod had a lower political profile and longer odds than Santorum.
If the Pennsylvanian could emerge from the political morass and win the leadoff contest, so can Jindal, who possesses advantages Santorum lacked.
Team Jindal has to figure out a way to cut through the competition in order for the Louisiana governor to emerge as the third man in a Jeb Bush-Rand Paul-“Conservative to be Named Later” fight for the nomination.
While there’s yet to be a “Mr. Irrelevant” to become league MVP, one holder of that distinction managed to make it in the league and remains active, kicker Ryan Succup.
Jindal has a long way to go before he can enjoy “Succup” status.