Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal may be the smartest and most well-credentialed of any of the candidates running for president from either party. He was a Rhodes Scholar, ran Louisiana’s Department of Health at age 24, then served as a top official in the federal Department of Health and Human Services, followed by his election to the U.S. House and finally the governorship in 2007.
But all indications are that Jindal, who formally launched his campaign Wednesday, is a very long shot to win the White House in 2016. Jindal was widely panned in 2009 for his flat, dull speech when he was the Republican designated to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union address. And he has never recovered.
Republicans aren't any more excited about him now than they were when he flirted with running in 2012. Both then and now, top donors and officials in the party, while rarely publicly criticizing Jindal, have simply embraced other candidates.
The Indian-American Jindal is Catholic and deeply religious, but the party’s social conservatives are more enthused about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Jindal is very wonky, but the party’s policy experts so far prefer ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Jindal has succeeded in everything he has tried, but Republicans view Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other hopefuls as more likely to defeat Hillary Clinton if they become the party’s nominee. Rubio has also galvanized Republicans who want to nominate a young, minority candidate who is an obvious contrast with Clinton.
How could Jindal win? He is aggressively courting the party’s religious right. Some Republicans have been unwilling to embrace religious freedom laws that would allow businesses to avoid taking actions that would appear to condone gay marriage.
But Jindal recently wrote a forceful op-ed in the New York Times defending such provisions.
In the piece, he reaffirmed his opposition to gay marriage and promised he would not reverse his stance, even as a growing number of Americans support same-sex unions.
“I will not change my faith-driven view on this matter," he wrote.
Such views might help Jindal win a state like Iowa, where evangelical Christians are a large percentage of the voters. But it’s hard to see Jindal emerging as the consensus candidate among evangelical and very conservative Republicans in other states. And even if he did, he would likely be defeated by a more mainstream Republican like Walker, Bush, Rubio or Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
But Jindal, even if he does not win the nomination, could make himself a strong contender to be the party’s vice-presidential candidate. The Republicans are unlikely to nominate a ticket of two white men in an increasingly-diverse America.
Jindal, having served in Congress and two terms as governor, is unquestionably qualified to be vice-president and would be well-positioned if Bush or Walker is the GOP nominee.