James Gill: Why Bobby Jindal is struggling to stand out, is going nowhere with his campaign _lowres

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

With Iowa knee-deep in ideologically indistinguishable GOP presidential candidates, standing out from the crowd requires an ability to beat the rest to the punch.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has lately been the one with the fast hands. They can all abhor gay marriage, but he’s the one who came out immediately with an executive order to counter the supposed threat to religious freedom posed by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

He stole a march, too, on an anti-abortion field by launching an investigation into Planned Parenthood over the alleged trafficking of fetal body parts.

It’s all bunkum, but that’s just another plus. He’d never get far on the campaign trail without a lot of that.

Although Jindal deserves credit for running an opportunistic campaign, he remains at the bottom of the polls. He affects not to care about them, as laggards pretty much have to do. This time, such a claim is especially hard to credit, however, since national poll numbers will determine which 10 hopefuls get invited to the prime-time debate in Cleveland on Aug. 6.

Although his campaign claims his support is surging in Iowa, the polls continue to suggest that Jindal has not caught on in the rest of the country. If, as seems quite likely, he fails to make the cut in Cleveland, it may be impossible to get his campaign off the ground, which would not break many hearts in Louisiana. Iowans would not be warming to him if they knew Jindal as we do. He seems certain to leave the governorship with a historically abysmal approval rating.

Still, his campaign spiel should appeal to GOP primary voters and would presumably have given him a fillip in the polls if the field weren’t so crowded. The polls are so topsy-turvy right now that the cartoonish Donald Trump is at or near the top.

Trump will presumably fade away following his denigration of John McCain for getting taken prisoner in Vietnam. With that idiotic pronouncement Trump, who was riding around Manhattan in limos while McCain was resisting torture in the Hanoi Hilton, shot himself in the foot. Jindal joined the chorus in McCain’s defense, but Trump will probably still rate an invite to the Cleveland gabfest.

Trump had already made a fool of himself by dismissing Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists. Jindal made all the right noises then, too, asserting the need for a secure border but rejecting ethnic stereotypes and preferring to see “people as individuals.”

That did not bring him any joy in the polls, and neither did his official announcement not long before that he was running. That announcement was not exactly a surprise, but his campaign had suggested it would boost his numbers. It is always a mistake to announce good news before it happens.

Jindal nevertheless continued to show he knows how to play to the GOP gallery even if his efforts appear not to have attracted the nationwide attention he craves. He was quite a hit at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, where he averred that “clearly the Supreme Court is wrong” on gay marriage and “can’t change what God has created and instituted.”

The next president should follow his lead, Jindal said, and issue an executive order banning the federal government from penalizing businesses that cold-shoulder customers for not holding “a traditional view of marriage.” That would presumably make it OK to give a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court the bum’s rush and test separation of powers to the limit.

Jindal’s executive order is all posturing, for it is hardly going to thwart a Supreme Court ruling. But it makes a lot of sense as a campaign ploy.

Same goes for the state Health Department investigation he instituted after an anti-abortion group released an undercover video that allegedly proved Planned Parenthood was selling fetal organs and tissue. The video features an abortion doctor thoroughly inured to her grisly trade but contains nothing to justify the suggestion in Jindal’s order that “evil and illegal” activities have been exposed. It merely shows that fetal parts are donated for medical research, and that happens only with consent, Planned Parenthood says.

If that leads to relief for the sick, whatever questions of medical ethics might remain are way too recherche for an election campaign. Jindal, in any case, is more inclined to seek the sensational angle and has called in the FBI to look into this “alleged criminal activity.”

It seems unlikely that he really believes Planned Parenthood has such a ghoulish sideline, but this is certainly a story calculated to rile up the GOP voters. Jindal isn’t putting a foot wrong. He’s just going nowhere.

James Gill’s email address is jgill@theadvocate.com.