Washington — When Gov. Bobby Jindal announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on June 24, national polls had consistently showed him lagging the large Republican field, with support in the low single digits.
His campaign manager, Timmy Teepell, was not dismayed.
“If Gov. Jindal runs, he will run to win — and that means increasing poll numbers,” Teepell said in an email a few weeks before the announcement. “Every candidate who has announced has seen a bump (in the polls) in the months after they announce.”
It has not been months since Jindal’s announcement, but it has been three weeks — and in national polls conducted since June 24, Jindal has not registered any significant movement in the crowded Republican field. He still ranks in the low single digits, with 2 percent his most frequent score. That’s what he recorded in a CNN poll conducted June 26-28; in a YouGov/Economist poll conducted July 4-6; in a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted July 6–10; and in a Monmouth University Poll conducted July 9-12. An earlier YouGov/Economist poll conducted June 27-29 showed Jindal at 3 percent, while a USA Today/Suffolk University poll conducted July 9-12 pegged his support at 1 percent.
Jindal also scored 2 percent in a KBUR/WAA poll conducted June 27-29 in Iowa, home to the Feb. 1 caucuses that kick off the nomination process. In a Public Policy Polling survey in Michigan on June 25-28, Jindal’s support was recorded as zero percent. In a PPP poll in North Carolina on July 2-6, Jindal came in at 1 percent.
“Do we need more data? Sure,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Virginia. “Is it obvious where this is going? Yes.”
Teepell still sees the glass as half-full.
“Gov. Jindal just got in this race,” Teepell wrote in an email July 9. “He’s getting great reviews and a great reception in Iowa,” a state where Jindal has spent several days campaigning since June 24.
The immediate goal, Teepell wrote, is to increase Jindal’s favorable perception among voters, a metric also captured in surveys. Teepell cited a Quinnipiac University poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers conducted June 20-29 that showed Jindal tied for fourth among Republican contenders, with a favorable-unfavorable rating of plus-40 percent.
“Our net favorables are high,” Teepell wrote. “Movement in the (poll) position follows movement in favorables. That will take a little more time, but it’s coming. That’s why these campaigns start months before Election Day.”
A potential problem for Jindal is that a critical date in the nomination process comes up Aug. 6, well before the voting in Iowa. That’s when Fox News hosts the first national TV debate among Republican candidates in prime time — but not all the Republican candidates.
Fox, in cooperation with the Republican National Committee, has decided to limit participation in its live, prime-time debate in order to manage an unwieldy field that could include close to 20 candidates with some claim to legitimacy by virtue of occupancy of a past or present major elective office, such as governor or senator, or of national reputation. The network has said that it will include only the top 10 candidates as ranked by an average of the five most recent national polls recognized by Fox as of Aug 4.
The also-rans will participate in a televised forum in the afternoon before the prime-time debate. CNN, hosting the second debate on Sept. 16, has announced similar plans.
“Favorables and net favorables are worth looking at, but that doesn’t get you into the debate,” said Charlie Cook, of the national Cook Political Report. “Anybody that doesn’t make it to either the Fox or the CNN debate might as well go home — the top debate, the adult table.”
And the Aug. 6 debate, Cook said, looms as the more important, because it’s the first one and it’s on Fox, a right-leaning network with strong appeal to Republican voters.
Fox has not announced exactly which polls will factor into its calculation of the top 10 candidates, and in any case, the network will use the five most recent qualifying polls leading up to Aug. 4 — so it’s impossible to determine now precisely who will make the cut. But it’s looking pretty dicey for Jindal.
The Real Clear Politics average of national polls from June 14 to July 12 has Jindal in 13th place, at 1.5 percent, while the compendium of 10 recent polls at Huffington Post Pollster shows Jindal in 14th, at 1.6 percent. The two most recent polls, conducted July 9-12, do show Jindal in a four-way tie for ninth, at 2 percent (Monmouth) and in a five-way tie for 10th, at 1 percent (USAT/Suffolk) — and Fox has said it will include candidates tied for the top 10 in its prime-time telecast.
All of the contenders scoring above zero in the polls have announced their candidacies, except for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who runs neck-and-neck with Jindal and is expected to make his run official on July 21. But the bounce effect has varied considerably.
Although almost all the contenders, including Jindal, have been acting like candidates since 2014, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, was the first with a formal declaration, on March 23. He jumped from 4.6 percent on the Real Clear Politics average that day to 11.3 percent less than a month later — but has since fallen back to 5.2 percent.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, rose slightly from 8.7 percent as of his April 7 announcement to 9.5 percent soon after, but now stands at 6.6 percent. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, was on the rise when he announced April 13, and his numbers doubled to 14 percent by early June; he’s now at 7.8 percent.
The numbers for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson bounced upward after his May 4 announcement, going from 5 percent that day to 9.5 percent in early June, before falling off to 7.6 percent now. Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina announced the same day, but she was in Jindal territory then and has not moved out of it since. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared his candidacy May 5; his numbers improved from 7.5 percent then to 9.3 percent a month later, although he is now at 6.8 percent.
Since then, other candidates who, like Jindal, were polling in the low single digits when they announced — former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, who entered the race on May 27; former New York Gov. George Pataki, who declared on May 28; and U.S. Sen Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who both got in June 1 — have barely moved the needle.
“The media has something to do with this,” Sabato said. “The coverage is scaled to reflect the support the press sees in the polls.
“It’s kind of self-fulfilling: The polls are self-fulfilling,” Sabato said.
“It matters more who you are and where you’re starting from,” Cook said. “Somebody who’s at 1 or 2 percent is going to have a harder time getting attention.
“Not every candidate gets a bounce.”
Follow Gregory Roberts on Twitter, @GregRobertsDC. For more coverage of government and politics, follow The Advocate Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.