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Bobby Jindal Becomes 13th GOP Candidate

06/24/2015 07:33 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2016

Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, just became the 13th Republican candidate for president. Whether this will prove to be lucky or unlucky remains to be seen. Even though the field is already incredibly crowded, Jindal will not be the last Republican to announce -- there are at least two other contenders who will likely jump in (Scott Walker and Chris Christie), with the possibility of a few more longshot candidates as well. The more crowded the field gets, the harder it is going to be for any one of them to stand out, which is precisely Jindal's main problem.

It's hard, after all, to differentiate yourself when there are so many other candidates who are so similar. Jindal's going to be looking for the evangelical vote, but Mike Huckabee may have more luck. Jindal's the first Indian-American to make a presidential bid, but there are two other children of immigrants running (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio), who might pull in a larger share of the electorate due to being Latino. And there are plenty of other state governors running, some with much more successful state economies to brag about. So it's going to be extremely hard for Jindal to be seen as unique among all the other diverse candidates.

Piyush "Bobby" Jindal (Bobby is a childhood nickname, not his legal name) was born to parents who had immigrated from India while his mother was four months pregnant. Bobby has immersed himself in America in true melting-pot fashion, from his southern drawl to the nickname he took from The Brady Bunch. Jindal converted to Christianity while a young man, and is now a Catholic. His academic career is impressive on paper, as is his political career. Although fairly young, he's been both a member of the House of Representatives and a twice-elected governor (he also lost several elections before his political career began to take off). All of which looks good for anyone applying for the job of president.

But Jindal's time might have passed -- if it ever even existed. He's not as fresh a face on the political scene as he once was, and he may have lost any chance he had with his first foray onto the national stage -- a disastrous response in 2009 to President Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress (it technically wasn't a "State Of The Union" speech). Jindal's speech was roundly panned from both sides of the aisle, and a New York Times column labelled it the "Howdy Doody-meets-Mister Rogers response," which pretty much sums it up. But even in the category of "disastrous Obama speech responses," Jindal will have to compete with Marco Rubio's infamous sip from a tiny bottle of water.

Jindal does have a few interesting things in his background, but they're not all that potent on a national political stage. He actually delivered his third child himself, at home, which I don't think any of the other candidates can claim. He also participated in a sort of amateur, non-sanctioned exorcism while in college as well, but I really doubt he'll be bringing that one up while campaigning.

Jindal had one moment of clarity after the Republican Party's disastrous showing in the 2012 elections, when he begged other Republicans to "stop being the stupid party." This was mostly in response to the "legitimate rape" type of comments several Republican senatorial candidates had made during the election cycle, but since that time Jindal has fervently worked to win over as much of the Republican base as possible, by tacking as hard to the right as he knows how. This includes such things as trying to get evolution and "intelligent design" taught in Louisiana schools. Jindal also notably tried (and failed miserably) to take his anti-immigrant show on the road, informing Britain that there were "no-go zones" of Muslims in their country -- much to the astonishment of the people who actually live there.

Jindal ushered in massive tax cuts in Louisiana, and the state's budget is in crisis because of his refusal to backtrack one inch on taxes. Jindal is not only a devout Christian, he's also a devout Norquistian -- a worshipper at the shrine of Grover Norquist and his "no taxes, ever" pledge. Jindal's current contortions on taxes are downright insane -- he's trying to tax university students and then refund the same amount to them, all so he can raise a separate tax without getting Grover Norquist mad at him. This plan is so loopy he's lost support from members of his own party in the legislature. This has resulted in Jindal moving in a short period of time from the position of winning a landslide re-election to now polling lower in his home state than President Obama (which is really saying something, for a deep South state).

Jindal also lost his bid to get Louisiana's legislature to pass a "turn away the gays" law, even after Indiana and Arkansas had to back down from their own efforts. Jindal then did what most Republicans complain about when President Obama does the same thing -- he issued an executive order that completely bypassed the legislature. Look for this to be brought up by his Republican opponents. Jindal's past support of the Common Core educational standards could hurt him in the primary season, as well.

That, however, will only happen if his Republican contenders even bother to notice him. Jindal is polling so low it's barely measurable in the national polls right now. Even if he gets a bump in the polls from his campaign announcement, he's got a long way to go to even get into the top ten contenders. Jindal quite obviously has been dreaming about a run for the presidency for quite some time now, but the Republican Party's base has apparently moved on to fresher faces on the scene. It'll be hard for Jindal, at this point, to even make the cut for the debate stages. Of course, if he does make it to a televised debate and somehow puts in a forceful performance, the headline the next day will be pretty easy to write: "When Piyush Comes To Shove."

At this point, however, Bobby Jindal looks like the longest of longshots to even win the Republican nomination. He's not exactly a vanity candidate -- he is a state governor, after all -- but the best he can probably hope for at this point is to get a cushy job at Fox News at some future date. Even in the running for the vice-presidential slot on someone else's ticket, Jindal likely won't be anyone's first choice. After all, if a Republican presidential nominee decides to pick a governor from the South who is Indian-American, Nikki Haley may be a much more intriguing choice.

Bobby Jindal has been preparing to run for president for a long time. However, his best chance might have come and gone in 2012. In the 2016 race, Jindal seems destined to be just another candidate far back in the running, who will eventually run out of money and leave the race fairly early. And that was all true before he decided to become the unlucky 13th entrant into the Republican race.

 

Chris Weigant blogs at:

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