Over the past few days, I’ve found myself trying to extract the deficiencies of Bobby Jindal’s campaign, and figure out exactly where he went wrong.
An Ivy-League graduate, the son of immigrant parents, Jindal burst onto the scene. Shortly after being elected governor of Louisiana, all eyes were on Jindal. “The question is not whether he’ll be president, but when,” Republican strategist Steve Schmidt told the Washington Post. “Is Bobby Jindal the GOP’s Obama?” Newsweek asked in 2008. It surely seemed that way, even I was convinced. Whenever Jindal come on my TV, I abruptly shushed the room in anticipation of what Jindal was going to say next.
Twelve years ago, at 32, Jindal was described as the “most impressive candidate for any office that I had ever met,” by Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. I agreed. Rhodes Scholar. Head of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Human Services in his early 20s. Executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. He had it all. I believed the future was as bright as could be for this man. Even when we fundamentally disagreed on social policy, I still found myself in support of Jindal.
Friends and family told me my subconscious had an affinity for Jindal because of what they referred to as a “mystic Ivy League bond.” He didn’t attend Yale, so perhaps that could have been a factor. I enjoyed watching him, I enjoyed hearing him speak. I thought being the youngest sitting governor in the country and becoming the first elected Indian in the United States were captivating.
It’s not easy being a Republican in my home state of California. You’re immediately branded as a heartless, anti-progress, small-minded individual. Jindal sought to change the ideology liberal Americans had about the party. “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party,” Jindal said at a major GOP gathering in 2013. “It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.”
Oh man, oh man, oh man.
But what happened?
Last week, Jindal announced he would be suspending his campaign for president, stating simply, “this is not my time.” At the outset, it’s simple to see why Jindal failed to make an impact — a Republican field flooded with more than a dozen candidates. Heading into October, Jindal had fundraised just $261,000. This factor surely impacted his inability to create any traction or gain any significant means of ground in national polls — at one point, Jindal was polling at a measly 1%. Another common theme can be traced through the candidates who have dropped out of the race, Scott Walker, and Rick Perry, were also both governors.
Jindal failed to identify himself as a candidate in the field, failed to declare standpoints on policy and other matters important to the voting populous. Instead, he spent the majority of his time chasing the spotlight — this left Americans confused as to who exactly Jindal was and what he stood for as a candidate. He never made clear his intentions or why he was running for president in the first place, as least not clearly enough.
His campaign ended up being exactly the opposite of what I — and several others — had expected from such a bright, articulate individual. Instead of focusing on the issues, Jindal focused on the news cycle. The days of shushing those around me so I could listen to what Jindal was saying were quickly replaced by the mute button. I had had enough of listening to him make the most outlandish and over-the-top statement possible.
From the outside, it appeared Jindal made his campaign about being the candidate who wished to stand out more than any other on contentious issues. It sounded and looked like a crazier-than-thou pitch of ideas.
We quickly learned Bobby Jindal was never the candidate. Bobby Jindal, viable contemporary conservative, never existed.