Open thread: Bobby Jindal to announce he's running for (vice) president

The formal announcement’s set for 5 p.m. ET but he’s already made his intentions plain on his website. He’s a fab candidate on paper — youth, an intriguing racial narrative, executive and legislative experience, and a wonky mind sharp enough to have earned even the left’s grudging respect. In a slightly different universe, he’s the clear frontrunner for the nomination.

In this universe, he’s an asterisk in the polls. Harry Enten wonders what might have been.

In 2012, Jindal would have mainly been competing for the affections of social conservative voters with Michele Bachmann, Perry and Rick Santorum. Only the latter two had ever won statewide office, and they both had their own problems. Now, Jindal has to go up against five other candidates for the social conservative vote, including four who have won statewide office before…

Four years ago, we might have had reason to think that increased exposure would significantly improve his chances: The Republicans who knew Jindal best — Louisiana Republicans — really liked him. In a 2010 Public Policy Polling survey of Louisiana Republicans, Jindal earned 44 percent of the vote and led his nearest competitor by 29 percentage points in a hypothetical Republican presidential primary. By June 2014, he had fallen to 12 percent and fourth place in Louisiana. No one has ever won a major party nomination when polling below 25 percent with voters in their own state at this point in the campaign…

When you put it all together, it’s unclear why Jindal is running. He has little shot of winning, and other candidates are articulating his ideological views. He shouldn’t have waited for 2016. He should have run in 2012.

Jindal and his bitter rival Chris Christie both would have been better off running four years ago. Imagine that primary: Instead of a snoozer in which the party tried on various novelties like Herman Cain before settling on the safe if unexciting choice for nominee, Jindal and Christie could have given Republicans a real choice for the nomination. If you were inclined towards the electable moderate but disdained Romney for his lack of charisma, Christie would have solved your problem. If you were inclined towards a social con with a better grasp on health-care policy than most in Washington, Jindal would have been your guy. They both decided to wait, for reasons I don’t quite understand. Maybe the prospect of unseating an incumbent president was too difficult, maybe they thought they couldn’t out-raise Romney when push came to shove, maybe they assumed that four more years of executive experience would make them that much more appealing in 2016. As it is, they’re both unpopular at home now and both largely afterthoughts in a far more competitive presidential field. I wonder if both of them won’t end up as cautionary tales to any young pol with national ambitions who thinks he’s better off playing it safe and waiting to run. I’d bet cash money that Marco Rubio thought of both Christie and Jindal in looking at his options this year and concluding “now or (maybe) never.”

A big part of Jindal’s problem, I think, is that some Republicans view him more or less as a phony, the Rhodes Scholar turned wonk who concluded that a brainy guy can’t get elected in the GOP by running as a brainy guy and therefore needed to pander on red-meat social issues instead. I think that’s unfair to who Jindal is — he’s always been a true blue social conservative as far as I know — but you can see the dilemma it creates for him. If you want a passionate social con, you go with Huckabee or Cruz, two guys whose authenticity on the subject is less questioned. If you want a wonk, you go with Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, two guys who don’t bend seem to bend as much in flattering the party’s other wing. For Jindal to seriously contend for the nomination this year, a lot of people in front of him would somehow need to be cleared out of the way. That’s unlikely and he knows it, which makes me think he’s running mainly for VP: If he puts on a good show at the debates, he’s the right age and has the right experience to be a fine pick for the bottom of the ticket. (He has sharp elbows too, which would make him a solid attack dog against Hillary.) But who would he run with? Who, among the other contenders, is going to pass on Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, or Nikki Haley to go with Jindal? He’s not as valuable on the ticket as a Latino VP like Rubio or Martinez is and he’s not as valuable on the ticket as a woman VP like Haley or Martinez would be. Who’s going to opt for Jindal over them?

Ah well. He’s only 44. If David Vitter wins the election to replace him as governor, maybe the name recognition Jindal gains from this primary will help him replace Vitter in the Senate. Although, given his job approval in the state lately, maybe not. Here’s a video he posted today about his looming announcement. It’s … different.

I had to tell a few people first. But I want you to be next. I’m running for President of the United States of America. Join me:

Posted by Bobby Jindal on Wednesday, June 24, 2015