And just like that, Bobby Jindal was gone. The impossibly unpopular Louisiana governor and beefcake slab of manly power ended his 2016 presidential campaign in characteristically underwhelming fashion, appearing on Fox News and explaining that “this is not my time.” There’s no arguing with that assessment – Jindal’s “time” as the future of the GOP expired a long time ago, he’s just the last person to actually say it out loud.
The obvious problem with the Jindal candidacy was that there was never a compelling reason to vote for Bobby Jindal. At every turn he was outmatched or out of sync with what Republican primary voters were looking for. Insanely hardline opposition to immigration reform? Donald Trump has the monopoly on that. Hammer-and-tongs invective against the un-conservative RINO sellouts in Washington, DC? Ted Cruz has you covered there. Son of immigrants with an inspiring, up-from-nothing story of gauzy American dreaminess? Marco Rubio cornered that market. Vigorous and ultimately futile resistance to marriage equality and gay rights? That’s Mike Huckabee’s raison d'être.
The only identity Jindal could lay sole claim to was that of the policy wonk. The pride of the short-lived Jindal campaign was its ability to churn out detailed policy proposals that, according to Jindal, were more purely conservative than anything you could imagine. This approach obviously didn’t work, and Jindal acknowledged as much when he dropped out yesterday. “We spent a lot of time developing detailed policy papers,” Jindal said, “and given this crazy, unpredictable election season, clearly there just wasn’t a lot of interest in those policy papers.” That was Jindal’s polite way of complaining that Republican voters are far more interested in the swaggering dickishness of Donald Trump than they are in policy matters.
But even without Trump serving as a massive political black hole, the “policy wonk” argument was a tough one for Jindal to make given that the policy agenda he pursued in Louisiana left him almost universally reviled within the state. His regressive tax policy was crafted specifically so that it would adhere to Grover Norquist’s “no new taxes” pledge, so even as government revenues plummeted owing to decreased revenues and falling oil prices, Jindal did everything he could – painfully large spending cuts coupled with some transparently phony budget gimmickry – to keep his oath to Norquist. Jindal’s massive unpopularity is a big reason why blood-red Louisiana is poised to elect a Democrat to succeed him as governor (the general odiousness of Republican candidate David Vitter also contributes to this).
Jindal could never explain why people should vote for him given how hated he is in Louisiana. He tried spinning it by saying that he was willing to sacrifice popularity to do the difficult things that conservative governance requires. “My popularity has certainly dropped at least 15 to 20 points because we’ve cut government spending, because we took on the teacher unions,” Jindal explained earlier this year. “But we need that kind of leadership in DC.” His argument was literally that he’s so conservative that you’ll end up despising him for it, so vote Jindal. That’s a tough sell.
The question now is what comes next for Bobby Jindal. He told Fox News that once his term in office expires he’ll return to the world of think tanks and policy papers, where he’ll likely keep up his campaign of badgering congressional Republicans to embrace his peculiar standards for conservative purity. But it’s foolish to think that Bobby Jindal’s career in public service has come to an unceremonious termination. He has a background in healthcare policy, and he’s a vicious opponent of the Affordable Care Act, so when President Donald Trump is sworn into office in January 2017, don’t be surprised if he taps Jindal to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Watch our mash-up of some of Jindal's most over-used lines:
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