Is this a shot at the field generally or a shot at Ted Cruz specifically? Matt Lewis and McKay Coppins think it’s a shot at Cruz. The question that inspired this answer was, in fact, about Cruz. Jindal’s point, about prioritizing policy ideas over politics and posturing, echoes Megyn Kelly’s question to Cruz last night about his perceived lack of accomplishments in the Senate. And Cruz and Jindal are competing for the same niche of the primary electorate, social conservatives who want more of a full-spectrum right-winger than Mike Huckabee. Jindal’s going nowhere in the primaries unless he can get past Cruz.
Which, let’s face it, probably ain’t happening. Cruz has an easy comeback waiting if he wants it: “I’d rather have no accomplishments than Bobby Jindal’s ‘accomplishments.'” He enjoys a rock-star cachet among tea partiers that Jindal, although well liked, simply doesn’t have so it’s not obvious to me how Jindal leapfrogs him in the polls. It’s possible that Cruz will be caught in a scandal, but given how widely hated he is by both parties’ establishments, they would have already coughed up the dirt to try to take him down if they had any. Jindal can and will make the ol’ executive experience argument — he’ll have two full terms as governor under his belt before Cruz has completed one term in the Senate (and he’s younger than Cruz to boot) — but you know what I think of arguments like that. Personal charisma will trump theoretical polisci considerations about “experience” every time, as Barack Obama will happily tell you. Even the obvious reason for Jindal to run, to make himself more viable for the VP slot, isn’t so obvious. The next GOP ticket will, to a near certainty, contain at least one Latino candidate to help the party cut into Democrats’ share of that demographic. Jindal’s only shot at the ticket is for Cruz, Marco Rubio, or maybe Jeb Bush, whose wife is Latino, to be the nominee — and even then, Jindal will have the problem of Louisiana being too close geographically to the nominee’s home state to make the party comfortable. The ideal VP nominee for Rubio, Cruz, or Bush is Scott Walker, who could help the party play in midwestern battleground states. The ideal VP nominee for anyone else is Rubio himself or Susana Martinez. Jindal’s the odd man out.
Maybe he’s running as a brand-building exercise. His biggest problem right now is that few Republicans outside the base have heard of him. If he runs hard and impresses at the debates, he could end up in a position similar to Huckabee’s after the 2008 election — the guy whom no one saw coming but who performed well enough to make himself a national name and a factor in presidential primaries for years to come. Jindal’s just 43 years old; he’ll be around and in the GOP mix for decades to come, provided he can find an office to occupy now that he’s blocked by term limits from running for governor again. Makes me wonder why he’s (probably) running for president in 2016 instead of for Senate: David Vitter’s running to replace Jindal as governor this year, and if he wins, that would leave his seat open in 2016. The Senate seems like an obvious next step for Jindal. If not for one thing, I guess.