Political experts quoted in The Advocate say that the peculiarities of the presidential nominating system give Gov. Bobby Jindal a chance.
Clearly, we need either to change the system or bring in a fresh supply of experts. If these guys are right, we must tremble for the future of the republic.
Their rationale is that Iowa and New Hampshire are so sparsely populated that candidates get up close and personal with the voters. What is known as “retail politics” gives the little guy a chance to break through and raise the money needed when the campaign moves on to the big states and mass media take over.
“Little guy” is, of course, a relative term, for a presidential hopeful will still need a few million to get his foot in the door. That will be no problem for Jindal, who is much better at raising money than he is at governing, because he spends more time doing it.
Jindal will by no means be an unfamiliar figure in Iowa when the presidential season kicks off. Indeed, Iowa has featured so prominently in his travels over the last couple of years that locals must expect to see him at any moment. Driving along the highway, they will look for him waving from a cornfield or leaning on a pig farm fence with a smile on his face.
That doesn’t make the experts right when they suggest Jindal could make an early splash. Never attended an Iowa caucus, have you? Well, I have and, when I tell you what went down, you will understand why Jindal will flop.
I drove many miles along icy roads banked with snow drifts to get to the caucus. I sat there for hours that night listening while a crowd of modest size engaged in earnest debate and took a series of preliminary votes before a winner emerged.
So tight is the schedule on the campaign trail that the lonely hack must often compose his reports in a hotel room in the early hours. So, as I set off through a blizzard, I threw a couple of beers into the trunk to sustain me when I sat down to my lucubrations.
That would have been a sound policy back home in Louisiana, but, as you have probably guessed by now, it was a dumb move in midwinter up there. By the time I got back to Des Moines, the beers were frozen solid.
I relate this story not to evoke sympathy, although I expect you are quite moved, but to shed light on the nature of the Iowa caucuser. I was there because I was getting paid to cover the campaign; everyone else had traipsed voluntarily through the snowy wastes to devote an entire evening going through a long list of candidates almost a year before the election.
Only a tiny minority of the population will attend caucuses, and those who do show up hardly constitute a cross section. Their civic involvement verges on the eccentric, and they do their homework. They will curl up with reports on the candidates’ records, so that, when they arrive on the big night, they will have the facts at their fingertips. They can pick out a flim-flam candidate at a hundred paces. Bad news for Jindal.
Jindal, according to his adviser and former chief of staff Timmy Teepell, will attract voters because he favors small government, religious liberty and a strong global role for America. Caucus goers will be hard pressed to name a candidate who doesn’t hold identical views. If Jindal stands out, it will be as financially irresponsible ideologue who wrecked health care and higher education statewide.
Here is a governor who insisted on spending $1.1 billion to build a hospital that was not needed, waited 10 years for it to open and then couldn’t afford to open it on time.
They’re probably talking about that in Oskaloosa and Keosauqua right now.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.