The next two weeks could make or break Gov. Bobby Jindal’s presidential aspirations – and suddenly several events have teed up the softballs he needs to jumpstart his campaign.
Before and after announcing his presidential intentions, Jindal has continue to suffer low polling numbers for the Republican Party nomination. Granted, in a field of over a dozen serious candidates, the random mean would be seven percent, but bouncing around five points or more below that does not inspire hope that he can break out from near the bottom to grab it. More crucially, candidate debates that either will exclude or grant second-tier treatment to the lowest-ranking candidates in polls begin in a couple of weeks. While not getting first-team status doesn’t definitively doom his campaign, it does make things more difficult to come out on top in the end.
Fortunately for him, over the last month social issues he has chosen to distinguish himself most from his competitors have fed him assists under the basket that he merely had to lay up to score. About the time he announced formally his candidacy, the U.S. Supreme Court rather inexpertly found a protected behavior nowhere written in the Constitution, homosexual activity, that had to be recognized this way by states in the form of same sex marriage. This put Jindal front and center as he had issued an executive order not long before this stating that government could not discriminate in its dealings with citizens on the basis of their views on marriage.
With credentials burnished more than any other candidate on this issue as a result, Jindal finds himself on the majority side of public opinion – and decisively so among Republicans. Overall, while a slight majority disagree with the Court’s decision, much larger majorities agree with the principle of Jindal’s executive order, and very healthy margins of Republican identifiers agree. And, tailor made to keep his leadership on this issue in the public spotlight, special interests have sued Jindal over the order.
Then last week sensational video footage showed a top Planned Parenthood of America official discussing ways to harvest body parts from unborn and virtually-born humans for profit; it’s illegal both to sell products of reproduction not donated and to perform abortions in a manner that preserves body parts. Jindal, whose pro-life credentials are unassailable, thus had the opportunity to issue a directive to state government to vet the five abortion mills in the state for any of these illegal practices and to use more intensive inquiries into the licensing of one Planned Parenthood intends to build in New Orleans – again, distinguishing him from every other GOP presidential candidate.
And another real world event seemingly made to highlight his commitment not just on the social issue of gun rights but also on policies in the areas of immigration and homeland security came his way right after. A homegrown terrorist attack on military recruiters left five dead in Tennessee, which likely could have minimized or mitigated had military personnel involved been carrying firearms that are banned among active-duty troops in free-standing recruiting centers. But as governors control their National Guard units, Jindal and a few others levied executive orders in their states that their Guardsmen could have such weapons in recruitment offices – yet again, not just expressing an opinion but being able to act on it unlike any other of his rivals.
Uniquely among the field, these events have given Jindal a model platform and wide publicity to demonstrate issue preferences popular among Republican nomination procedure participants, with the additional validation of having the chance to act upon them. If he can’t build a sufficient electoral base with so much low-hanging fruit suddenly appearing in front of him to entice its formation, he’s just not a viable nomination candidate.
If Jindal has the mettle, he at least can incorporate a couple of percentage points into his polling numbers after all of this topical assistance. That would get him into all the top-tier debates, and he can multiply support from there. Not that social issues are a main driver of voter support, but this confluence of events put him in a position to draw publicity and to supply the opportunity to differentiate himself from his competitors, encouraging those interested in the nomination question to give him a look on other issues as well. It now remains to be seen whether he can take advantage of what the vagaries of the campaign trail have thrown this way.