Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says his presidential campaign raised half a million dollars at its first major fundraiser held in Baton Rouge on Saturday.
Jindal, 44, formally launched his campaign for the Republican nomination for president on Wednesday.
On Saturday, an intimate crowd of Jindal supporters mingled under a tent outside the Governor’s Mansion with LSU football coach Les Miles, while sipping on cocktails and listening to New Roads-based band The Neighborhood Stars.
The Governor’s Mansion event was billed as a “reception,” while Jindal’s campaign held a $2,700 per person fundraiser at the nearby Hilton hotel in downtown Baton Rouge earlier in the evening. Guests who arrived at the Hilton event, which was mostly empty at its 5:30 p.m. start time, were instructed to go to the Governor’s Mansion for the main event.
Speaking to reporters briefly as he arrived to the Mansion event, Jindal said he felt he was warmly received in New Hampshire and Iowa — the early primary states he traveled to after his campaign announcement.
Jindal, who trails most polls on the crowded Republican field of 2016 candidates, is expected to focus heavily on Iowa during his campaign.
“We ate our way through Iowa,” Jindal told reporters, recalling giant cinnamon buns, barbecue and chocolate-dipped bacon he ate on his trip.
“My sense is they are excited about this race,” he said of Iowa voters. “It’s a great start to the campaign.”
In the only national public poll that has been conducted since his campaign launch, Rasmussen Reports found that more than 50 percent of likely Republican voters don’t believe Jindal will be their nominee in 2016.
Jindal, who has spent several months traveling to early voting states and flirting with a presidential run, has repeatedly dismissed his low standing in polls.
“Polls don’t bother me,” he said Saturday, again highlighting reaction to his appearances in Iowa. “I think we’re going to do very well.”
He repeatedly slammed Democrat Hillary Clinton, who has mounted her own run for president, claiming she would lead the country on the “path to socialism.”
“We can’t afford four more years under this direction,” he told the crowd in his opening remarks.
He further said he’s “not just in this to win this race, but to change this country.”
Meanwhile, Democrats were quick to criticize Jindal’s use of the Governor’s Mansion for an apparent campaign event.
“This is one more example of Gov. Jindal letting his campaign treat his role as Louisiana governor like a day job and a prop,” said Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Beau Tidwell. “Just like with his attacks on Rand Paul using the Governor’s Office, this skirts right up to the edge of legality and shows flagrant disdain for the people he was actually elected to serve.”
After Jindal blasted Paul, a U.S. senator and announced candidate for president, the Louisiana inspector general advised him to keep campaign and official state duties separated.
Asked about his double duties as candidate and acting governor on Saturday, Jindal said he’s confident he can juggle both effectively.
“I stay in touch with my staff and cabinet heads who do great work for Louisiana,” he said of his busy travel schedule.
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.
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