Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal threw a hissy fit in front of the White House earlier this month. He joined other governors in having a non-partisan luncheon with the president, then walked out on the lawn and began blasting away at what he perceived to be the Obama ineptitude. Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy called Jindal a “cheap shot artist,” and even Jindal’s fellow republican colleagues rolled their eyes in dismay.
So was Jindal out of line in taking pot shots at the president? From Jindal’s perspective -- No. Jindal seems to be feeling the heat of a number of rising stars in the Republican ranks. The current presidential talk centers around the likes of new Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with Midwest governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Indiana’s Mitch Daniels. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been bogged down in a bridge scandal at home, but still ranks high in national polls of prospective republican presidential candidates.
With the crop of new guys on the block sweeping past him, Jindal no doubt fears that any possible presidential shot could be slipping away. While it may seem desperate to some, Jindal is going after red meat. Throwing bombs at the president may be his only chance to firm up his support with the Obama haters, of which there are substantial numbers, and to hold on to a semblance of staying in the race for national office. It’s fourth and long, and Jindal seems to be throwing a Hail Mary.
So what caused the demise of Bobby Jindal? Six years ago, as the 2008 presidential election was taking shape, the Louisiana Governor was the fair-haired boy of the national Republican Party. In the eyes of many, Jindal was on a fast track to the Oval Office. Here’s what I wrote in a column dated September, 2008:
“To say that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s political stock continues to rise would be an understatement. He has been regularly profiled as a future presidential candidate in a number of national publications. If you want to get an idea of how Jindal is being perceived around the rest of the country, take a gander at the latest edition of Esquire. The 75th anniversary issue profiles the most influential people in the world today. A one-page profile is given to such luminaries as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Chinese Communist leader Deng Xiaoping, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Barack Obama. One page each. Bobby Jindal is given 10 pages.”
And as Jindal crisscrossed the nation year after year in pursuit of building an even grander political stature, he always told his audiences that his dream job, the only one he wanted, was being Governor of Louisiana. Unfortunately, the folks back home in the Bayou State weren’t buying it. Jindal punted on his “dream job,” and in recent years has become an absentee chief of state. The current Louisiana legislative session began this week, and many legislators say that until his opening address, they had not seen hide nor hair of the governor in over a year. Numerous legislative leaders fear the state budget is in shambles and has caused massive cuts in higher education and healthcare programs. Jindal has continued to ignore the minutiae of running state government.
Jindal’s popularity is lower than any governor in recent memory. The state’s largest newspaper, The Times Picayune, ran recent poll results headlining, “Bobby Jindal One of the Nation’s Most Unpopular Governors.” The poll put Jindal’s popularity in the state at 35%, with only one in four voters wanting Jindal to run for president.
But is criticizing Obama while paying little attention to his home state a good strategy for Jindal to grow a national base? Apparently not. Last week, most of the republican presidential contenders, including Jindal, spoke at the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference). A straw poll of some 3000 attendees had Kentucky Senator Rand Paul with a big lead, garnering 31%, while Jindal barely blipped with 2% favoring him.
The message here is simple. To gain national political stature and be in the running for national office, a candidate has to have a record on which to run. Jindal’s misguided strategy caused him to abandon the home front and fail to build the foundation required to make a run for higher office.
So Jindal is making what many believe to be a last desperate effort to gain some national traction. Maybe not a Hail Mary, for every now and then one of these attempts actually works. No, it’s a Hail Bobby. But because he failed to effectively carry out his “dream job,” the odds are there will be no one at the end to catch the ball.