In a crowded Republican field, Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign exceeded expectations. It lasted longer than most people thought it would.
The Louisiana governor struggled in the polls from the start – struggled to raise money, struggled to get any visibility in the media.
His campaign was always a long shot – and many, including me – predicted he would be the first to drop out.
In the four Republican debates, he was on the ‘undercard’; the early debate put on for those with low poll figures. He spent most of the last debate in Milwaukee attacking the Republicans around him, apparently trying to claw his way over them to higher poll ratings and greater recognition. It didn’t work. His numbers hardly moved.
He becomes the third Republican to drop out of the race, following Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Texas governor, Rick Perry. There are 14 candidates still fighting for the nomination.
Jindal believed he connected with the Evangelical Christian voters in Iowa, where they have a lot of influence. He staked out a position on the right of the party, but found that area pretty crowded. He issued lots of policy papers. But no one wanted to discuss his ideas and blueprints. They wanted to hear from the outsiders like Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
He banked on an ‘Iowa First’ strategy, believing a good showing there would catapult his campaign to the top tier, give him the momentum and money to push on. He spent 74 days in the state which will hold the first nominating contest – more than any other candidate. And just 24 hours before he suspended his campaign, he announced he was to continue his tour of Iowa’s 99 counties later in the week.
Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants, became governor of Louisiana in 2007, two years after Hurricane Katrina. Some predicted it wasn’t a case of if he would be elected president, but when. A former Rhodes scholar, his youth, energy and dynamism created real popularity in those early years.
But in his second term, his poll numbers tanked. Seventy percent of voters expressed their displeasure at his job performance. The state suffered fiscal crises; he spent time out of Louisiana campaigning. Critics claimed he was neglecting his job. They said every measure he took, every decision he made, was with one eye on the presidential campaign and what could be possibly used against him rather than doing what was right for his state.
Famously in the wake of the 2012 presidential election, he called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party”, saying offensive and bizarre rants from party candidates were destroying its electoral chances.
Throughout this election cycle, he simply couldn’t get himself noticed. In August, as a joke he said: “The best way to make news is to mention Donald Trump.” And his frustration at the lack of visibility grew. At one point he held a news conference which dealt solely with the billionaire businessman’s fitness for office.
Bobby Jindal was certain that as other candidates dropped out, the people of Iowa and the voters at large would see his strengths. But as he himself said, “The reality is this isn’t my time.”