As we prepare for the long anticipated entrance of the 2016 Republican
beauty pageant contestants presidential candidates, the press is faced with the endless task of establishing the normal narratives. This includes placing all of the hopefuls into one of a few pigeonholes, particularly in terms of their crazy factor. Are they “reasonable” Republicans of the moderate, establishment strain or are they fire breathing, Right Wing Nut Jobs? They may have a bit of a problem in this task when it comes to Louisiana Governor and almost certain POTUS candidate Bobby Jindal.
Is he a young, nerdy problem solver or a take-no-prisoners Tea Party warrior? Matt Lewis seems to think that Jindal is trying to have his cake and eat it too.
“Bobby Jindal is a bright guy and a fine governor,”writes Peter Wehner, “which is why it surprises me when he advances foolish ideas.”
… To which I respond: Peter Wehner is a bright guy and a fine columnist, so why is he surprised?
Hell, David Weigel spelled it out pretty simply a year ago, when he wrote: “Jindal’s rep is as a wunderkind who was put in charge of Louisiana’s hospital system at age 28. To be competitive in the Iowa caucuses, he needs to either pretend to be a schmuck or emphasize his heretofore-concealed schmucky tendencies.”
In the last year, not much has changed. “Take Jindal’s recent appearance on “The Laura Ingraham Show,” Wehner writes, “in which he pounded congressional Republicans for not pushing a strategy to oppose the president’s executive order on amnesty that would almost surely lead to a government shutdown.”
Matt points out that Jindal is a Rhodes Scholar who was such a recognized wonk and efficient problem solver that he was placed in positions of great responsibility at an early age. This suits him well on his home turf in the Pelican State. In this regard he has a lot in common with other Republican governors who may have broad popularity at home, but be less well known around the rest of the country, and potentially not work out to be a good fit.
But to get through the primary and the debates, the next candidate probably won’t be able to just think their way through the battle. Matt notes that there is an unspoken requirement for the eventual primary winner to have at least some bona fides as a pitchfork populist if they want to engage the true passions of the most likely primary voters. Does that sound like a role that Jindal is cut out to play?
I’ve met Governor Jindal a few times now and interviewed him briefly in New Hampshire last winter. In addition to his televised appearances I’ve listened to him speak in more intimate settings. The man is good at retail, hand to hand politics. In one on one encounters or with small groups, he can engage nearly anyone on their own terms, discuss the issues and win over a lot of people. And, yes.. he’s a really smart guy. But I don’t know how well that translates over to the massive rallies and televised dog and pony shows he will face in the primary. He clearly recognizes that he’s going to have to try, hence the appearance on the Laura Ingraham Show.
I don’t think Bobby Jindal is ever going to fit into the niche of a Ted Cruz. But does he need to? And if he tries too hard, is he “pandering” as Matt Lewis suggests? The one thing that voters seem to despise more than an insufficiently conservative candidate is a poser. Jindal will have to avoid that label at all costs.