National Harbor, Md . — Gov. Bobby Jindal took aim at the Affordable Care Act, Common Core educational standards and President Barack Obama’s leadership in the fight against Islamic terrorism in a speech Thursday that stuck to familiar ground at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
The 2015 CPAC is a significant way station on the road to the Republican presidential nomination, and the four-day event includes appearances by a dozen potential candidates at the Gaylord resort and convention center. Jindal is counted among them , although he has struggled to emerge from the back of the pack in opinion surveys. He spoke immediately after Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who has vaulted to the top of the Republican polls.
Walker proved to be a tough act to follow, as he generated a considerably more enthusiastic response than Jindal. So, too, did U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, two other potential Republican candidates who spoke earlier in the program, although Jindal’s reception was warm and positive.
Jindal’s speech was a less-focused shaping of candidacy than those of Walker, Cruz and Fiorina — although they steered clear of formal declarations, in some cases with a wink-and-nod “if I run” routine intended to avoid federal election law restrictions on campaign contributions. In response to a question after his remarks, Jindal said, as he has before, that he is “thinking and praying” about a decision to run, which he said should come in the next couple of months.
Sponsored by the venerable American Conservative Union nonprofit advocacy organization, CPAC annually draws thousands — conservative movers and shakers, rank-and-file activists and many students — to listen to speeches by political candidates and panel discussions on such subjects (this year) as Common Core, immigration, Islamic extremism, the Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, abortion and voter fraud.
Jindal ticked off his three main targets, saying, “We must repeal every single word of ‘Obamacare,’ ” and “We need to remove Common Core from every classroom in America” and “We are at war with radical Islam.”
He called on his fellow party members in Congress to “grow a spine” and said, “The Republicans in Washington are about to wave the white flag of surrender” on replacing the Affordable Care Act and blocking Obama’s executive orders granting reprieves to certain categories of illegal immigrants.
Jindal’s speech, adapted to the 20-minute CPAC format, was a reworking of ones he has delivered at different stops around the country and abroad in recent months. His second term as governor winds up at the end of 2015, and he is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
He alluded to the controversy generated by his January speech in London that invoked the existence of Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe — a widely discredited claim — and that praised assimilation of immigrants to America. Jindal, whose parents were born and raised in India, repeated his disdain for the use of hyphenated ethnic descriptions such as Indian-American and said, “There is nothing wrong with saying if you want to come to America, you should want to be an American.”
And, in keeping with a tone he has struck consistently, he said it was important to “hunt down and kill” the Islamic terrorists at war with the United States.
“How have we ever won any victory in any war except by killing our way to victory?” he asked.
The event features a presidential straw poll conducted on touch screens in the convention center lobby, and this year, it includes 17 candidates. Results will be announced late Saturday. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has easily won the last two polls. Jindal finished second in the 2009 straw poll.
Jindal, 43, has appeared at CPAC several times in past years. In 2014, he attracted publicity with his comment that Obama is the “worst president” in Jindal’s lifetime.
Several more possible presidential candidates will speak on Friday, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Check out the full schedule on the CPAC website, cpac. conservative.org.
Also taking the CPAC stage on Friday: Louisiana native and “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson. Robertson will speak at 11:40 a.m.
CPAC will stretch through the weekend and will include a straw poll on the 2016 presidential race on Saturday.
Follow Gregory Roberts on Twitter, @GregRobertsDC. For more coverage of politics, follow The Advocate Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.