The 2016 presidential election is still a political lifetime away, but according to Senator David Vitter (R-LA), there is already at least one candidate running.
During a Sunday appearance on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers, Senator Vitter said it is “very obvious” that Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal will run for president in 2016. Vitter declined, however, to endorse his fellow Louisana Republican.
“I like Bobby, I respect his leadership, I agree with all of his political values. But I haven’t thought about what I would do or wouldn’t do personally” Vitter said. “I do think he’ll run. I think he’s been running. And I think he’ll be a meaningful and significant candidate.”
When asked whether he thinks Jindal wants to be president, Vitter quickly responded, “Oh yeah. I think that’s very obvious to everybody who has been paying attention.”
Jindal has spent the past year acting like someone planning a presidential campaign; although he has deflected questions about his White House ambitions, he has taken several trips to the early caucus state of Iowa, and eagerly courted the national media with his various plans to improve the Republican Party’s image. Most memorably, he responded to Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election with an attention-grabbing (but substantively empty) directive to his colleagues to stop being “the stupid party.”
There is one major barrier blocking Jindal’s presidential ambitions: Pretty much everybody hates the job that he’s done as governor. Although Louisianans initially supported the 42-year-old Baton Rouge native — he cruised to re-election in 2011 with 66 percent of the vote — his approval rating took a deep dive in 2013 as his economic plans took root. Voters strongly disapprove of his budget cuts, his emphasis on privatizing state-run public hospitals, and especially his plan to eliminate state income taxes while increasing sales taxes, which would amount to a tax cut for the top 1 percent of Louisianans, while raising rates for the bottom 80 percent of the state. By August, Jindal’s approval rating had fallen to just 28 percent in a Public Policy Polling survey, making him the least popular governor in America according to the liberal pollster. As it turns out, even Republicans aren’t particularly fond of Tea Party government in practice.
There are other reasons to doubt Jindal’s prospects in a national campaign; his career has been marked by a series of odd controversies (including a supposedly cancer-curing exorcism), and his rhetorical skills leave much to be desired (generally presidential candidates would hope to avoid comparisons with Kenneth the page).
Recent surveys have shown his numbers inching upwards — a November Southern Media & Opinion Research poll found him at an improved, but still weak 42 percent — but there is pretty much no data suggesting that the Republican Party is about to catch Jindal fever. According to a December 18 PPP poll, just 3 percent of Republicans want Jindal to be their presidential nominee, placing him last among the nine candidates included in the poll.
So unfortunately for Democrats, even if Vitter is right and Jindal does run, the Louisiana governor is probably not going to be the Republican presidential nominee. And given that Vitter notoriously despises his Pelican State colleague, and rarely misses an opportunity to take a passive-aggressive swipe at him, there’s a good chance that the senator knows it too.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons