Government & Politics

Jindal's Campaign Can Be a Rags-to-Riches Story or a Tragedy

Once the darling of the GOP, Jindal faces an uphill battle.

Dan Gilmore · Jun. 25, 2015

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was once the darling of the Republican Party. Eight years ago, GOP strategist Steve Schmidt said of Jindal, “The question is not whether he’ll be president, but when he’ll be president, because he will be elected someday.”

Today, if Jindal is going to get any traction, it’s going to be through a scrappy campaign. And it will be quite interesting to watch as the politician, seasoned in policy but short on political clout, tries to claw up from the bottom of the pack.

Jindal announced his campaign for president Wednesday with a simple — almost amateur — video. Since 2008, presidential campaigns have relied on online mass media. It’s no coincidence that almost every campaign announcement has been accompanied with a video of the politicians. While the big budget campaigns of the likes of Hillary Clinton feature stock footage of Americana, heavy patriotic music and heavier editing, Jindal’s campaign used nothing more than a GoPro camera set up in a yard as the family sits around a table.

“Mommy and Daddy have been thinking and talking about this: We have decided we are going to be running for president,” Jindal said.

“How do you feel about that?” Jindal’s wife, Supriya, asked their three children.

Their son replied by flashing a double thumbs-up — Jindal’s second endorsement after the most important one from his wife.

In the crowded field of Republicans, Jindal is the 13th to announce. And the polls aren’t good for the governor. He’s dead last in poll average, running behind even Donald Trump’s hair.

And it’s unlikely Jindal can simply throw money at the problem, as it’s rumored he’s short on funds. Jindal’s campaign staff is made up of a loyal team. His strategist, Timmy Teepell, has managed the politician’s campaigns since Jindal ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004. But Jindal also has been able to recruit operatives who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.

Compared to the supposed heir to the Republican dynasty who is leading the polls, Jeb Bush, Jindal could not have a more contrasting story.

Born into an immigrant family, Jindal did not meet a president on his first day. He was originally named “Piyush,” but when he was four, he asked to be called “Bobby,” after the character from “The Brady Bunch.” In high school, he converted from Hinduism to Roman Catholicism.

For some on the Left, Jindal’s assimilation is a problem. The Washington Post implied that Jindal was less than Indian. After all, he grew up eating American food, went hunting and, while in office, wore cowboy boots. The horror! Finally, the WaPo had to conclude by quoting an Indian-American doctor who said that Jindal has forgotten his heritage.

But again, race is a malleable weapon for the Left. When Jindal first ran for governor, his Democrat opponent, Kathleen Blanco, ran a tainted campaign that darkened Jindal’s skin in its attack ads and only called him by his given, Indian name. Jindal lost that campaign.

Perhaps Jindal’s greatest strength is as a policy wonk. “Jindal graduated at just 20 years old from Brown University with degrees in both biology and public policy,” NPR reports. “He was admitted to both Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School, but he turned down both to attend Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar.”

By age 24, he was head of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

Not only a credible voice on health care, Jindal has signaled that education will be a pillar of his platform. He has proposed solutions to Common Core, taking stances for greater school choice. And he announced the possibility of running for president on the same day in May that he spoke on education at the American Federation for Children National Policy Summit.

Ironically, Jindal’s presidential prospects may be handicapped by his past performance as governor of Louisiana.

Red State’s Erick Erickson, a native to Louisiana, writes that Jindal improved the state, privatizing state industries and clearing out the red tape and corruption. “He was the Governor that Louisiana desperately needed,” Erickson wrote, “but is, because of that, now the Governor it no longer really wants. He did what had to be done, but possibly at the expense of his future career.”

In March, Jindal’s approval rating sat at 27% — an approval rating more dismal than Barack Obama’s. The state legislature worked against him, shooting down his proposed version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It also tried to stop taxpayer funds from going to the state’s police that pays for Jindal’s protection.

But Jindal has got at least one Louisiana family behind him — the Robertsons, of Duck Dynasty fame. “I’m the kind of guy who really likes smart people … and that guy’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life,” said reality TV show star Willie Robertson. “He’s young, but he’s got the values, he’s got the intelligence to do it.”

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