COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took aim during campaign stops in Iowa on Tuesday at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other “establishment” Republicans running for president.
Walker, who was the Iowa favorite in the race until earlier this month, unveiled a plan Tuesday to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act. It was praised by some conservatives but immediately denounced by Jindal, who released his own “Obamacare” replacement plan last year.
“(Walker’s plan) makes the mistake President (Barack) Obama did of creating a new entitlement program at a time when we can’t afford the entitlement programs we’ve got today,” Jindal told a lunch crowd in Le Mars.
That criticism carried on as Jindal headed south to Council Bluffs — located just across the river from Omaha, Nebraska — for a forum Tuesday night.
Walker’s plan calls for the creation of a refundable tax credit for individuals who do not have employer-based coverage. That’s what Jindal has pointed to as an “entitlement” in the plan, though he previously has expressed support for some refundable tax credits for health care.
“I don’t think that Republicans should be offering Obamacare-lite plans,” Jindal told reporters in Les Mars. “It continues this idea of government dependence.”
Jindal later challenged Walker to a debate over health care in Iowa, via Twitter and an email blast from his campaign.
Jindal’s jabs at Walker don’t come as a surprise.
Both candidates have identified Iowa as being crucial to their chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination. The crowded, 17-candidate Republican crop has each presidential hopeful looking for a way to stand out.
In addition to a strong lead over Jindal in the polls in Iowa, Walker also has a money advantage. Shortly after the pro-Jindal super PAC Believe Again set out on running $700,000 in television ads in Iowa, Walker’s super PAC announced an ad buy of its own — 10 times larger at $7 million.
Walker’s campaign responded to Jindal’s criticism with a general statement defending his health care plan.
“Gov. Walker’s plan is getting rave reviews from the conservative movement for being a thoughtful, substantive and viable plan to repeal and replace Obamacare and make health care affordable and accessible for Americans,” Walker campaign spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement emailed to The Advocate. “The refundable health care tax credits the governor includes have been supported by many conservatives because they put health care decision-making in the hands of the American people where it belongs.”
His campaign hasn’t directly responded to the debate challenge.
Walker isn’t the only candidate that Jindal has sought to raise questions about in Iowan minds as he crisscrosses the state, trying to build name recognition and break through the pack for a surprise outcome in the Feb. 1 caucus.
“I don’t have a famous last name, my (spouse/father) wasn’t president, I don’t have a ton of money or a reality TV show,” Jindal said in Council Bluffs, taking aim at several of the top-tier candidates with one swoop — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real-estate magnate Donald Trump, in particular. “We need somebody who is ready to lead on the first day.”
Jindal, 44, has worked in government since he was appointed to Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster’s administration at the age of 24. During his two terms as governor, he has served in leadership roles with the Republican Governors Association, a Washington, D.C.-based group that raises millions to elect Republicans in gubernatorial races.
But Jindal dismissed that any of that would put him in the establishment category.
“There is a lot of frustration with the establishment,” Jindal said. “I have a unique combination — I have the experience, but I’m not part of the establishment or status quo who does not stand up and fight for our conservative principles.”
Jindal released several policy papers through his America Next think tank well before his formal campaign announcement. The first was his health care plan, which calls for a repeal and replacement of the federal health care law with the focus on cutting costs and capping Medicaid.
Jindal’s health care plan was 24 pages. He noted that Walker’s clocked in at 15, with several pages of logos and quotes.
Jindal in recent months has frequently identified himself as the only candidate who had released detailed policy proposals — a nod to his reputation as a “policy wonk.” All of the plans have been posted online, and Jindal routinely tells town hall crowds to go online to review his ideas.
“For several months now, I’ve been the only candidate to offer a detailed plan,” Jindal said in Council Bluffs on Tuesday, clinging to that narrative before striking at Walker’s plan. “It’s one thing to give a speech, but it’s another to give details.”