Admittedly, the real number of Republican presidential candidates is probably not 36, but somewhere around 23. Regardless, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is officially throwing his hat into the race and declared his presidential run on Twitter (H/T Alex Griswold). Jindal, who is a graduate of Brown University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, is now serving his second term as Governor for the state of Louisiana, and is undoubtedly coming into the race as an underdog. According to the latest polls, Jindal is polling somewhere between 0 and 1 percent. Pretty much the only real national exposure Bobby Jindal has had was several years ago in 2009 when he delivered the Republican Response to the State of the Union (see below). Judging by the overwhelming negative reviews of his response, that may be a good thing for him. Like Rick Perry’s “oops moment” in one of the 2011 Republican presidential primary debates, Jindal is going to have to convince voters that he has learned from his mistakes and can still be a formidable opponent.
But is Jindal a formidable opponent? The evidence for that may be scant. First off, if you look at the candidates who are vying to compete for the Social Conservative vote, he is polling way behind Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, and Rick Perry. But make no mistake that Social Conservatives are indeed the crowd his is aiming to appeal to. For one, he recently had an op-ed in the New York Times in which he told companies who would quarrel with his unwavering support for his state’s religious liberty bill (i.e. the bill akin to Indiana’s religious liberty bill that originally may have given businesses the right to decline to sell items that would be used in a same-sex marriage ceremony, such as cakes) to “save your breath”. Second, when former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared that President Obama “…does not love America” (H/T Margaret Hartmann), Jindal sent various reporters a statement (H/T Robert Costa of WaPo) that he refused to condemn Giuliani for his statement (even though, as Jonathan Chait brilliantly pointed out, at the time nobody asked him to release one). Furthermore, Jindal relentlessly backed former Fox News contributor Steven Emerson when Emerson claimed that “there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in” (H/T Philip Elliot). Emerson was widely mocked for his statement and later issued a retraction stating that his previous remarks about the city of Birmingham “were totally in error.” Jindal knows that a sizable portion of Social Conservatives feel the country is under imminent threat from Islamic Extremism (voters in Alabama voted last November to officially ban sharia law from the state’s courts), and therefore has no problem saying things like “[t]he bigger point is that radical Islam is a threat to our way of life”.
Getting back to his record as Governor, Louisiana’s current unemployment rate is 6.6%, a full percentage point higher than the national average (5.4%). According to Stephanie Riegel of Business Report, Bobby Jindal’s latest approval rating as Govenor of Lousiana is about 32%. In accordance with the previous paragraph pointing out his staunch social conservatism, he officially allowed the theory of Creationsism to be taught in public schools in Louisiana. For more information about how Louisiana went from a surplus (thanks mostly to oil revenue) to a $1.6 billion budget deficit (mostly due to signing Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge), read Andrew Romano latest piece on Yahoo Politics about Jindal’s tenure as Governor. The following paragraph does a nice job summing up the state’s current affairs:
“Jindal’s patchwork fiscal maneuvering has had real consequences for his constituents. The state’s Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly has been depleted by $800 million. Development incentives are down $450 million. Louisiana’s rainy day fund has dropped from $730 million to $460 million. Voters don’t care about Grover Norquist, but they do care about things that personally affect their lives. They care that Louisiana now taxes the middle class at a higher rate than it taxes the wealthy. They care that the cost of the state’s six biggest tax giveaways to business has ballooned by $650 million under Jindal, who at the same time has slashed state funding for colleges and universities by almost the same amount. They care that students are now paying much higher tuition as a result. They care that funding for the state’s hospitals has been cut to the bone. And they care that 30,000 government workers — many of them teachers, university employees, and health-care providers — have lost their state jobs.” (H/T Andrew Romano)
So all in all, Jindal certainly has his work cut out for him. Me personally? I doubt he’ll even make the cut for the first debate in September (Fox News has stated that only the top 10 candidates will be allowed to participate in the debate, while the bottom tier candidates will be televised showcasing their talents through a “get to know you” forum in New Hampshire). Much like Chris Christie, current Governor of New Jersey and soon-to-be presidential candidate, what started out as a bright future presidential candidate quickly turned awry after a myriad of public embarrassments and a lackluster record as Governor.
Bobby Jindal’s 2009 Republican Response speech is below (NOTE: That is MSNBC’s Chris Matthews saying “oh my god” as Jindal walks to the podium).