Washington Watch: Campaign Legal Center ‘very well may file a complaint against’ Bobby Jindal for rules violation related to presidential contenders, finances _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

At nearly the same time Monday that one high-profile Republican, Ted Cruz, officially announced that he’s running for president in 2016, a close political adviser to Gov. Bobby Jindal said the governor won’t declare his own intentions about that race until after the upcoming legislative session ends in June.

The difference in timing may be largely a function of the office each man holds, political commentators said. And in today’s fundraising landscape, the scheduling of an announcement may not matter that much, they said.

What is likely a bigger issue for Jindal is the state of his state, with Louisiana’s budget problems and Jindal’s unpopularity in the state causing difficulties for him on the national stage, they said.

“I think he could make a judgment that he needs to tend some fences back home,” said Charlie Cook, editor of the national Cook Political Report in Washington. “It sure wouldn’t look good to jump in a race when your job-approval rating back home is 27 or 28 percent.”

Jindal is one of more than a dozen Republicans sending signals that he is considering a White House run by repeatedly visiting early nomination-contest states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and giving speeches on national issues across the country. But despite those efforts, Jindal consistently ranks near the back of the pack in opinion polls.

Jindal’s best hope, commentators have said, is to raise enough money to compete in early 2016 in the early states and hope for a surprisingly strong showing in them to build momentum for a full-length campaign.

“Because he’s a sitting governor, he still has to worry about what happens in the legislative session,” said Geoff Skelley, of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, doesn’t have that worry. But as a federal officeholder, Cruz faces restrictions on his ability to solicit large contributions from wealthy donors that don’t apply to Jindal, Skelley said.

Announced candidates operate under the tightest fundraising restrictions of all, so Jindal would be giving up more flexibility than Cruz in making a formal declaration.

Official candidates do enjoy one advantage: They can set up campaign committees to receive donations, although neither corporations nor unions may contribute and donations from individuals are capped at $2,700 each.

Those restrictions don’t apply to a super PAC, which under a 2010 federal court ruling can accept unlimited donations from almost any source and spend them on behalf of a candidate, so long as there is no coordination between the super PAC and the candidate’s official campaign. A pro-Jindal super PAC was set up early this year by the governor’s supporters, and Jindal is free to encourage donations to it — and the no-coordination rule doesn’t apply yet because there is no official Jindal campaign.

“Official announcements don’t mean what they used to in a world where your super PAC may spend more money than your actual campaign,” Cook said.

Jindal’s decision on the timing of an announcement was confirmed by Timmy Teepell, a close political adviser.

Teepell said a delay until the end of the legislative session was the plan all along, although Monday was the first time that was spelled out. When asked at a March 16 forum in Washington when he might announce, Jindal said a decision was “a couple of months away.”

The first nominating contest, the Iowa caucuses, is scheduled for Feb. 1.

“To some extent, there’s no pressing reason to become an official candidate so long as it’s not impacting your fundraising,” Skelley said. “If he’s announcing in mid-June, I don’t think it’s necessarily putting him behind the 8-ball.”

Cruz is the first of the prospective Republican contenders to formally announce his candidacy and may have hoped to make a splash. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and developer Donald Trump have all announced the formation of exploratory committees, triggering fundraising restrictions similar to those that apply to candidates.

Gregory Roberts is chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email address is groberts@theadvocate.com and is on Twitter, @GregRobertsDC. For more coverage of national government and politics, follow The Advocate Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.