By Robert Mann
Gov. Bobby Jindal says he is praying about running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. While it’s certainly possible Jindal wants heavenly guidance, color me skeptical. From all appearances, Jindal’s fervent prayers have always been more along the lines of “please let me win” than “should I run?”
Anyone with even a passing interest in the Louisiana governor will note that if Jindal has been praying for guidance, it’s been at 35,000 feet on his way to Iowa. Perhaps Jindal is using Delta to launch his supplications into heaven.
Whatever the case, Jindal will soon announce God’s will for his life. However, the real question when it comes to Jindal’s unmistakable White House ambitions is, does he even have a prayer?
Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s close adviser and former chief of staff, argues that his boss can win the nomination. “He’s an undervalued stock,” Teepell told the Washington Examiner in October, arguing that Washington pundits have devalued Jindal because of his disastrous nationally televised speech in response to President Obama’s first address to Congress in 2009. “Fortunately,” Teepell observed, “DC pundits don’t get to decide elections.”
Teepell has a point. Voters make those decisions. Unfortunately for Jindal, voters are as underwhelmed by him as are Washington pundits. At home, Jindal’s 33 percent approval rating ranks him among the least popular governors in the nation. That’s not exactly a launching pad for a successful White House campaign.
Jindal and Teepell no doubt are praying that the issues that have hobbled Jindal in Louisiana — including bungling the state’s budget and his ineptitude on health care and higher education — won’t matter much to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
So far, however, Republican voters in those early primary states haven’t acknowledged Jindal’s enormous talents. In national surveys of GOP voters, Jindal is the perennial cellar dweller.
In the Real Clear Politics national average of polls, Jindal now sits dead last at 2.8 percent, well behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (14.3 percent), Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (11.2 percent), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (10.8 percent), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (10.8 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (9.7 percent), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (6.6 percent) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (5.8 percent).
Jindal surely has persuaded himself that he might eventually catch on in Iowa and New Hampshire. I can imagine he believes that a good debate performance, some inspired television advertising and gaffes or scandals that sink one or more of the frontrunners might just propel him into frontrunner status.
It’s a nice thought and a dream that inspires many an underdog. There’s only one problem with this scenario: No one has ever surged from the back of the pack to capture the nomination in the history of Republican presidential primaries.
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