For the past four years, maybe longer, it’s been the worst-kept secret in Louisiana politics: Bobby Jindal can’t wait to leave Louisiana and run for president. Despite his boilerplate “I have the job I want” response to early inquiries about his frequent fundraising trips to early caucus and key primary states, Jindal could never plausibly deny his higher ambitions.
So much so that he recently acknowledged that “everybody knows” he is “thinking” about it. Consider that a prelude to “praying over” his decision and “talking it over with his family” before officially announcing the obvious.
In typical Jindal fashion, the rollout of his budding candidacy was assiduously contrived. In late March, Jindal told the Heritage Foundation’s conservative news service, “It’s something we’re thinking about. It’s something we’ll pray about.”
In early April, he told an interviewer for National Public Radio, “There’s a practical benefit to having governors run for president.” Actually, the real “practical benefit” inures more to the candidates than to the country.
But even an eternal political optimist like Jindal must admit that he faces a long, uphill climb to win the Republican nomination, let alone the White House. At least a half-dozen — sometimes eight or nine — other Republicans consistently poll better than he among GOP voters looking to 2016.
Jindal supporters note that he’s still young, and that’s true. He’ll be 45 in the summer of 2016, which means he could factor into the next four presidential contests as a candidate or potential candidate.
For now, however, Jindal’s best shot at the White House appears to be on the coattails of a GOP presidential nominee as his or her vice presidential running mate. No one officially runs for vice president, of course. You have to start by running for president — and distinguish yourself without alienating the eventual nominee. That’s not easy for a guy whose stock in trade is bashing other politicians.
That’s just the beginning. If the nation (and the national media) ever takes a close look at Bobby Jindal, there’s liable to be plenty they won’t like.
Starting today and continuing through Friday, I’m going to count down five reasons why Bobby Jindal will not be president. I’ll present reasons 5 through 2 on this blog, but you’ll have to pick up a copy of Gambit on Sunday or Monday to read Reason #1.
Here we go:
5. He’s from Louisiana — Duh! We Louisianans love our state, with all of its eccentricities, but the rest of the country thinks of us as America’s crazy aunt in the attic, someone fun to visit but not someone you’d put in charge of the household. Politically, we have burnished our reputation as a cauldron of corruption, a banana republic that somehow attained statehood while America wasn’t looking. That’s hardly the launching pad for a conservative, button-down GOP candidate for president.
In our nation’s 225-year history of electing presidents, only one had Louisiana ties. Zachary Taylor was born in Virginia and spent his youth in Kentucky before moving to Louisiana. A slave owner and Army general, he was elected president in 1848 because of his military success in the Mexican-American War. Interestingly, voters at the time knew next to nothing about Taylor’s political philosophy; he was a popular war hero, and that was enough.
Chances are voters in 2016 and beyond will know a LOT about Bobby Jindal’s politics, but his bio will always begin with the fact that he comes from a state associated with voodoo, reality TV shows that sometimes require subtitles, Bourbon Street, rich food, philandering politicians and preachers, and other forms of weirdness.
Jindal’s own weirdness — participating in an exorcism while at college, delivering one of his children at home (it was an emergency, he says), defending Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson after Robertson’s homophobic and racially bigoted remarks to a national magazine, and his slavish suck-ups to the Religious Right — may make him popular among some on the GOP fringe, but it will be a huge turn-off to the nation’s moderate voters who typically cast the deciding ballots in close presidential contests.
No one knows that better than the guy (whoever he might be) who will be on top of the GOP ticket in 2016. After the Sarah Palin debacle of 2008, no Republican nominee is likely to roll the dice on a little-known “game changer” for veep — no matter how pithy his or her sound bites may be.
Tomorrow: Reason #4