In his hometown, there remain the true believers, those who have followed Bobby Jindal from the near-miss of the 2003 governor’s race to the Governor’s Mansion in 2008 and what many consider his foolish pursuit of the presidency in 2016.
Of course, now we’re down to those who are stickin’, as James Carville would say, even as the governor’s approval ratings plummet in his home state and he is overtaken in the single digits of the national polls by Carly Fiorina. She is apparently forgiven by more Republicans in California for a losing race for U.S. Senate than Jindal attracts in new followers nationally in his campaign to date.
But if you have stuck that long, it’s only $2,700 or $5,000 — or both, depending on the maximum limit for the particular exploratory or “independent” committee that you donate to — to sign on for what the critics consider an S.S. Lusitania of a campaign.
There is a case for the long shot, especially in the context of those who were in on the ground floor a dozen years ago.
The case for Jindal’s candidacy is inherently flawed because it depends on other candidates stumbling or otherwise underperforming to their potential, and it leads far more likely to the second spot on the 2016 ticket than the presidential nomination itself. In such a wide-open race, though, truly anything can happen. “Every week that goes by, we see underscored just how wide open this race is, how flat the field is, and why this GOP nomination contest is going to go a very long distance,” wrote Charlie Cook in this week’s National Journal.
The U.S. Supreme Court has liberated billionaires from their feelings of powerlessness by erasing campaign giving limits in many circumstances, so the biggest donors can now keep a campaign afloat far longer than objective political considerations used to allow.
What Democrats skewer as Jindal pandering to religious conservatives in the Iowa caucuses is also dismissed by many in GOP political circles. There are better choices for those people, goes this argument, such as the likable Mike Huckabee or last season’s Rick Santorum. A stronger argument is that the roughly one-third of Iowa caucusgoers who gave Santorum a narrow victory in 2012 now have a plethora of “mainstream” conservatives who will appeal to religious conservatives, too.
Perhaps Jeb Bush knows the words, but does he know the music? Jindal speaks with authenticity and passion to the base of the base.
The political analyst Stuart Rothenberg wrote in Roll Call that Jindal cannot afford to be typecast as the Santorum of 2016. This is wise advice, and Jindal’s sometimes erratic campaign performances must be disciplined to appeal to the base without foreclosing future options.
If he is to adorn the ticket, he must show that he can appeal to the base of the base without having sharpened his knives on other candidates, that he can be restrained enough to make his own case without rancor and showboating. It’s not that he hasn’t already transgressed; to shovel dirt on the failed Mitt Romney campaign in an unseemly bid for attention in November 2012, when the body was not yet cold, is a case in point.
There is no such thing as running for vice presidential nominations. One must be a candidate for the nomination itself, which means being plausibly presidential, even as the pressure is on to grab a quick headline. That is Jindal’s own dangerous no-go zone.
A young and articulate candidate who can unify the party’s base might be out of the money by this time next year but is not out of the running for the second spot. And that might be worth $2,700 for the ride.
Lanny Keller is an editorial writer for The Advocate. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.