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Monday, July 13, 2015

Candidate Profile: #10. Bobby Jindal

For background to this series, click here. For previous posts in the series:

Tier 4--They know they can't win
16. George Pataki
(15.5. James Gilmore)
15. Lindsey Graham
14. Carly Fiorina

Tier 3--We know they can't win
13. Rick Santorum
12. Mike Huckabee
11. Donald Trump

As you can see, we've arrived at the top ten! This candidate is also our last one in Tier 3.

Let's get to the Best. Campaign Slogan. Ever.

Bobby Jindal, 44, Governor of Louisiana, 2008-present

Campaign Website and Slogan--www.bobbyjindal.com--"Tanned. Rested. Ready."

PPFA Slogan--I can't top that. I just can't. I might even get the t-shirt.

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +6.25 (Individual rights: +9; domestic issues: +7; economy: +4; foreign policy: +5)

Conservative Rank based on above: 6 of 16.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--Have you seen this dude's tan?  And can you tell how rested he is? The man is ready! A 44-year-old Indian-American (not to be confused with American Indian, which happens far too often; thanks a lot, Columbus), he's a sorely needed fresh face for the Republican Party. Such a campaign could mirror what 47-year-old Barack Obama did for the Democrats in 2008, when a young guy who looked nothing like other candidates came in and injected a youthful vigor that got the party excited. The résumé for this conservative wunderkind is sparkling:
  • He graduated from Brown's pre-med program.
  • He earned his Masters at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.
  • At 24 years old, he was appointed to head Louisiana's financially struggling state Department of Health and Hospitals and ultimately saved it.
  • At 29, he was tabbed by President Bush to a sub-cabinet position.
  • At 33, he became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana's 1st district.
  • At 37, he became governor of Louisiana, where he has proven to be a tried and true conservative. He has cut taxes six times, including a $1.1 billion cut that was the largest in state history. His conservative tax and spend policies have earned him strong marks from the CATO institute. He's also proposed eliminating the state income tax. His taxpayer-friendly policies have led to tax burden results that rank favorably against the other governors running for president:
  • TaxRecordFinal071015
  • As governor, he helped the state weather two major natural disasters: Hurricane Gustav in 2008, earning bipartisan praise for the much more successful response than the one Louisiana had for Katrina under his predecessor; and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill three years later.
  • Also at 37(!), he was rumored to be on John McCain's VP shortlist.
  • That same year he was offered a prime time speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, but canceled due to Hurricane Gustav.
  • In 2009 he was chosen to give the rebuttal to President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress. 
  • Socially, he's rated 100 percent pro-life; he's a staunch opponent of gay marriage; he's adored by the NRA and Gun Owners of America; he wants alternative forms of biological history taught alongside evolution; and he's been among the most vocal critics on Obamacare, effectively using his background in health care policy.
In sum, he's a young, bright, minority, accomplished, conservative executive. Just what the Republican Party needs.

Spin from opponents--Take a closer look at his record as governor. Thanks to his irresponsible economic approach, he's had severe budget shortfalls, which he tried to balance largely on the backs of public universities, enacting the deepest cut per student of any state in the nation. Nevertheless, the $1 billion surplus he inherited has turned into a $1.6 billion shortfall. (If you click on that link, you'll see the rather unflattering title, "How Bobby Jindal Wrecked Louisiana.") His terrible gubernatorial record has caused his approval rating to collapse to a record low, 31 percent, while more than twice that disapprove. His approval rating among Louisiana Republicans alone is barely over 50 percent. Who knows a presidential candidate better than his own state? If Louisianians don't like him, why would the nation?

How do the polls look?--Not good. We haven't seen polls this bad since the first three entries in this series. His RCP national average is 1.3, which is tied for last with Lindsey Graham among the 15 candidates registering. In the 20 national polls taken since March, he's never polled higher than 2 points. In Iowa, meanwhile, things aren't looking much better. He averages 2.0, putting him in 13th place. Still, that looks good next to New Hampshire and South Carolina polling, where he isn't even registering. Yikes.

PPFA analysis--Why then, given these putrid numbers, did he crack my top ten? Mostly because of the caliber of candidate below him. Remember, Jindal is in fact our last candidate in Tier 3--We Know They Can't Win, so it's not like I like his chances that much better than those who came before him. What Jindal has over those candidates is upside. I think he has a puncher's chance at making a Huckabee 2008/Santorum 2012 run.

First of all, politicians who are unpopular in their home state can go on to do well nationally. Just ask Mitt Romney. Both candidates had started as popular governors, but later in their tenures they wore out their welcome. Romney went on to win the Republican nomination handily in 2012. Jindal could repeat the feat.

Second, the levity of the campaign could catch on. That slogan--"Tanned. Rested. Ready."--is totally out of left field. And then he has jokes scattered throughout his "facts about Bobby page" on his website, like "Bobby starts each morning with a hard workout, and recovers with a recovery meal of chocolate, carbs and sugar. Bobby is a scientific anomaly; and scientists should probably study him." It seems like a surprising approach to a national campaign, but in a massive field of Republican candidates saying similar things, he's trying to get people to pay attention to him. We see this campaign acknowledges that it's not a serious front-runner, which can be refreshing to a certain type of voter. This is where he reminds me of Mike Huckabee 2008. Remember Huckabee and Chuck Norris? It certainly got new people talking about the candidate who to that point was a relatively unknown in a crowded field even though his view actually connected to a lot of the Republican base. Jindal is in an identical situation, and it looks like he's using that same strategy. Plus, in a political comparison to Huckabee, Jindal is more fiscally conservative, so if Jindal can catch that magic, there will be less skepticism from the party like it had toward Huckabee.

Furthermore, in Jindal we have the first candidate on this list who has the ability to repeat what Huckabee and then Santorum did in back to back election cycles: come out of nowhere to rally support in Iowa, succeed in its caucus, and then use that as a platform to mount a national campaign against the establishment candidate. Would I bet on it? Absolutely not. But his ceiling is higher than anyone else on this list so far. He's taking the religious conservative route in Iowa, which is exactly what Huckabee and Santorum and did (and are doing again). By putting his Christianity front and center, all his chips will end up in the Iowa basket. Huckabee and Santorum weren't registering in other places either until their big runs in Iowa. Jindal can repeat that.

Ultimately, this time around, whereas both Huckabee and Santorum are known quantities and ultimately losers, Jindal isn't marred by those factors. Thus, he has a higher ceiling, even if his floor is subterranean if he doesn't catch on, and is ranked above the two candidates on whom he will model his candidacy.

PPFA nomination rank--10 of 16 (Odds: 32:1).

PPFA general election rank--9 of 16.

The countdown continues on every odd day of the month. On Wednesday, we'll get to Tier 2.  See you then.

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