DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Bobby Jindal is hoping that a big showing in Iowa will propel his presidential campaign to new heights, but Team Jindal doesn’t have an official headquarters in Iowa and has only a handful of paid staffers.
“We run lean,” Jindal campaign National Coalitions Director Taylor Teepell said during a recent interview with The Advocate in Des Moines. “Our view is, as we need to expand, we’ll expand.”
To put into perspective just how “lean” Jindal’s team is, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush opened his second campaign office in Iowa this week and has more than twice as many staffers on the ground here — and Iowa isn’t as essential to his campaign strategy as it is for Jindal.
Donald Trump, who is leading the polls in Iowa, opened his first campaign office in Iowa this week.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the former frontrunner in Iowa, was the first Republican 2016 hopeful to open an Iowa office several months ago, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is stated to open one in the coming days — just to name a few among the crowded Republican candidate slate.
Teepell, brother of Jindal campaign manager Timmy Teepell, said the Jindal campaign is supplemented by a robust team of volunteers and the goal right now is to focus on getting Jindal in front of potential Iowa caucusgoers.
“If you have a bunch of people sitting around an office, you’re probably wasting money,” he said.
Jindal’s campaign doesn’t exactly have resources to waste. For the first campaign finance reporting period that ended June 30, Jindal’s campaign had raised about $580,000. Outside groups backing Jindal’s run have amassed millions more but must operate separately from the campaign because of campaign finance laws.
Jindal, who announced his presidential campaign during a rally in Kenner on June 24, had been assembling what would become his campaign team for several months.
But it isn’t the slick campaign staffs of Walker, Bush and others who have scooped up some of the nation’s top presidential campaign strategists and experts in Iowa politics.
Jindal’s flying commercial, and there is no tour bus with his face on the side for him to travel the state in.
Many members of Team Jindal, including the Teepells, have long been associated with the governor in some capacity and are Louisiana natives. They’re loyal followers who believe that, despite naysayers back home and low polling numbers, they have the time and the right candidate to snatch a surprising finish in Iowa’s Feb. 1 caucuses.
“We’re here to win,” said Taylor Teepell, a former deputy chief of staff for the governor. “I fundamentally believe Bobby would make a great president.”
Teepell said he made his first trip to Iowa earlier this year, when he left the Governor’s Office for the campaign.
He and his wife moved to Iowa from Baton Rouge. Matt Parker, another former aide in the Governor’s Office, also packed up and moved to Iowa to back Jindal’s run.
An average day on the campaign in Iowa isn’t easy to sum up, but Team Jindal spends much of its time traveling, Teepell said.
“If you have a typical day-to-day routine, you are probably doing something wrong,” he said. “(Jindal) campaigns relentlessly. Our job is to get him out in front of as many people as possible.”
Political experts and some attendees of Jindal’s recent events said a Jindal surge shouldn’t be ruled out entirely. Recent winners in Iowa — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, in particular — were not expected to win at this point in their races.
Jindal has high favorability ratings here, low unfavorability numbers and is drawing crowds as he sets out to campaign in all 99 counties.
“At this point, I would rather have a candidate with high favorability,” Teepell said. “That’s something we can work with.”
“The beauty of Iowa is they get to pick who they actually like,” he added.
Jindal has spent considerable time in Iowa — even before formally launching his campaign. After a two-day stint traveling to South Carolina and New Hampshire, he will return to speak at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday.
Helping Jindal’s campaign — but not in coordination with the official staff — is Believe Again, a political action committee that has organized town hall meetings across the state featuring Jindal. The organization plugs the events with postcards, prerecorded phone calls and social media.
Believe Again adviser Jill Neunaber tells crowds that the group isn’t a typical super PAC.
“We pride ourselves in being different in this race,” she said.
Attendees at some of such events in Iowa this week were a mix of Jindal backers and caucusgoers who are trying to get as much face time with each candidate and information on them.
“It’s about having a conversation,” Neunaber said.