Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took another step toward announcing a run for the White House — launching a presidential exploratory committee that will guide his potential bid until he makes an official declaration.
“For some time now, my wife Supriya and I have been thinking and praying about whether to run for the presidency of our great nation,” Jindal said in a statement Monday. “If I run, my candidacy will be based on the idea that the American people are ready to try a dramatically different direction. Not a course correction, but a dramatically different path.”
Jindal is expected to announce whether he’s running for president next month after the Louisiana Legislature wraps up its work at the State Capitol on June 11.
The creation of an exploratory committee allows him to “test the waters” and raise money for a presidential campaign. It’s just the latest hint toward Jindal’s seriousness about jumping into the 2016 contest, despite a consistently poor showing in polls on the large Republican field.
Political analyst Larry Sabato, of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said Jindal’s announcement this week largely amounts to “an opportunity to get a headline.”
“The candidates are fighting for attention daily,” he said. “You no longer just announce once … you announce it over and over and over again.”
Sabato said it’s obvious to many political observers that Jindal has been gearing up for a presidential run over the past few years.
Jindal, 43, is finishing up his second term as governor and can’t seek re-election because of term limits.
While embracing an agenda that highlights national issues, he has made frequent trips to states that fall early in the presidential nominating process, like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He’s also started to build what likely would transition into a campaign team through his American Future Project organization. AFP now has staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire.
A super political action committee formed by Jindal’s political allies called Believe Again also has created a funding mechanism for a possible Jindal run. The super PAC notes on its website that its goal is to “advocate for the election of Governor Jindal as President if he chooses to seek that office.”
The new Jindal exploratory committee relaunched the BobbyJindal.com website Monday for supporters to receive updates.
The announcement puts Jindal into a more restrictive fundraising class for candidates and possible candidates. Candidates who are “testing the waters” for a White House run face the same Federal Election Commission rules on raising and spending money as officially declared candidates. That means donations from individuals are capped at $2,700 per person, and donations from federal multicandidate PACs are restricted to $5,000. Meanwhile, contributions from corporations and labor unions are prohibited.
If Jindal eventually becomes an official candidate, the money collected and spent by his exploratory committee must be reported as part of his official campaign.
Over the past year, Jindal has ramped up appearances on conservative television and talk radio shows, and shifted his focus toward highlighting national policy proposals on health care and foreign policy, among other topics.
He has especially courted conservative Christian voters — holding closed-door meetings with conservative pastors in Iowa and hosting an evangelical prayer rally on LSU’s campus.
During a recent economic development trip to Europe, he gave a speech slamming “radical Islam,” making international headlines with his criticism aimed at Muslim extremists.
A frequent theme has been criticism directed at President Barack Obama.
His Monday announcement again took aim at Obama and highlighted many of those same issues.
“President Obama has started to redefine the American Dream, turning it into the European Nightmare. Because of this, I believe our country is in serious trouble and that the hour is late for America,” Jindal said. “The problems caused by seven years of weak leadership and mistakes in the Obama administration can be corrected. But they won’t be fixed by just sending Republicans to Congress. It will only be fixed by a president who is willing to make hard decisions and who has the ideas to change our country’s future.”
Despite his consistent efforts to draw attention to his conservative stance on hot-button, red meat issues, Jindal has struggled to break out of the lower tiers of the packed GOP field and gain serious attention as a presidential contender. Marquee Republicans like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, meanwhile, have dominated early speculation.
The Democratic National Committee sent reporters a link to a YouTube video of a yawning puppy as its response to Jindal’s announcement.
Sabato said Jindal has gotten lost in the deep field of potential GOP contenders.
“There’s no buzz about him,” Sabato said. “He hasn’t caught fire.”
But, he added, there is still plenty of time for Jindal to have a good week or month that will light the match under his campaign.
“I think his fundamental problem is his deep unpopularity in his own state,” Sabato said, adding that Jindal runs the risk of his story being dominated by that lack of a strong Republican base back home.
Gregory Roberts, of The Advocate’s Washington bureau, contributed to this report. Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.