How badly Bobby Jindal must wish it were 2008, when he was newly installed as the nation’s first Indian-American governor and a rising star in the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh declared him “the next Ronald Reagan”; The Washington Post, “a political meteor.” GOP insiders picked him as the antidote to the party’s monochromatic hue. “The question is not whether he’ll be president, but when he’ll be president, because he will be elected someday,” Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s top strategist, opined.
Now inevitability is just about the only thing animating Jindal’s presidential bid, which he announced on Wednesday with an awkward home video posted to his Facebook page. “We have decided we are going to be running for president this year,” Jindal announces to his three children as they sit with his wife beneath a tree-shaded canopy. There’s a long silence. The kids look around. “That’s good?” Jindal asks with a tense laugh. He gets a thumbs-up.
You can’t blame the kids for failing to feign surprise; Jindal has often seemed more concerned with a future White House bid than his current job. That makes it all the more striking that in the clown car that is the Republican primary field, Jindal will be stuffed in with the spare tire; he’s polling at less than 1 percent of Republican primary voters. In Louisiana, his approval rating is 10 points lower than President Obama’s—a shocking gap, considering the contempt many Louisianans hold for the president, who lost the state by 17 points in 2012. Things are so bad for Jindal that his constituents would rather vote for Hillary Clinton.
What went wrong? In sum, Jindal made Louisiana the test site for an experiment in socially conservative, pro-corporate governance that wound up wrecking the state so badly it can’t be ignored. After inheriting a $1 billion budget surplus, Jindal has taken Louisiana to a $1.6 billion deficit. The state is broke enough that conservative legislators are rebelling against his slavish adherence to the anti-tax pledge he made to Grover Norquist.
Here are a few other black marks on Jindal’s uniquely disastrous record:
Corporate Welfare: Louisiana loses $300,000 every time the A&E show Duck Dynasty films an episode. The state once gave an oil refiner $10 million to create 43 jobs. All in all, Louisiana directs over $1.1 billion in taxpayer money to business incentives—more than double the cost when Jindal took office. As the Advocate reported last year, these giveaways have deepened rather than alleviated the state’s economic woes.