And, he's off….finally. Gov. Bobby Jindal threw his hat into the presidential ring. He delivered a short, red-meat laden speech at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner late Wednesday afternoon, filmed an remote interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, then headed to the nearby airport to fly off to first primary state New Hampshire.
A few thoughts on the day:
1) Jindal used the speech to position himself as a conservative insurgent, a truth-teller who's not going to play it safe. He outlined some broad themes he hopes to take on the road to Iowa, New Hampshire and other early primary states. Among them: That unlike his opponents, he's a "doer" and not a "talker," that he's not afraid to violate the rules of political correctness (see religious liberty), and that he doesn't think Republicans have to play to the center to position themselves for the general election. At one point he went after onetime ally Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and one of the race's frontrunners, for saying Republican candidates "need to be willing to lose the primary in order to win the general election."
"We're going to help him do that," Jindal ad-libbed.
Jindal didn't mention any of his many other GOP rivals by name, although he did criticize likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton several times, at one point calling her President Barack Obama's "apprentice in waiting," and accusing the two Democrats of trying to turn the American Dream into a "European nightmare."
2) Jindal scooped his own big announcement hours earlier when he released a video in which he and his wife Supriya break the news to their three kids on hidden camera (it turns out that they, like the rest of us, had already figured out their dad's intentions). If it was designed to go viral, it may have done so for the unintended reasons. The staging was awkward; viewers couldn't see or hear the family very well and nobody had much to say about the endeavor, although Jindal did wind up promising daughter Selia a puppy should they move to the White House. Some web sites described it as "creepy" and "bizarre." Maybe Jindal's been spending too much time with his reality show friends -- although at least on Duck Dynasty, everyone plays to the cameras.
3) Speaking of Duck Dynasty, there didn't appear to be a Robertson in the house -- a bit of a surprise, given how much time Jindal has spent cozying up to them. One local celeb did make an unexpected appearance on video. Retired Saints quarterback Archie Manning lauded Jindal, as did the governor's onetime boss, the seldom-seen former Gov. Mike Foster.
4) During the recent legislative session, Democrats and Republicans alike openly groused about having to close a $1.6 billion budget hole, all while protecting Jindal's presidential ambitions by complying with what they saw as ridiculous demands by the Washington group Americans for Tax Reform. Yet he apparently emerged with a few friendships intact. Spotted at the Pontchartrain Center: state Sens. A.G. Crowe and Mike Walsworth, and state Reps. Lenar Whitney, Scott Simon, Tim Burns, Bodi White, Eddie Lambert. Lambert was one of eleven Republican House members who had written to ATR president Grover Norquist asking whether he really endorsed the gimmicky SAVE tax swap Jindal demanded lawmakers pass.
Also on hand: State GOP chair Roger Villere, Superdome Commission Chairman Ron Forman, failed U.S. Senate candidate Rob Maness and LABI president Stephen Waguespack, who was none too happy with all those "revenue neutral" tax increases on business that Jindal signed. Still, Waguespack used to be top Jindal aide, so perhaps all is forgiven.
5) Anyway, what budget crisis? In a morning briefing for reporters covering the announcement, Jindal's consultants declared the point moot. On Message, Inc. partners Curt Anderson and Timmy Teepell repeated the administration line that Jindal signed his eighth balanced budget in eight years without raising taxes -- a point that just about everyone else disputes. "This is over now," Anderson said.
Well, maybe for Jindal, but certainly not for the next governor and Legislature, who will start their terms facing an immediate hole.