- REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
One of the Republican Party’s formerly “rising stars” ran into a “bizarre” presidential race.
That was how Curt Anderson, the chief strategist on the campaign of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, summed up Jindal’s five-month run for the US presidency.
“If any of you know anyone who could’ve predicted the way this campaign has gone with the two gentlemen who are in first place, you’re smarter than anyone else in the world,” Anderson told reporters on Tuesday, shortly after Jindal announced his decision to suspend his campaign.
He continued: “It’s been a bizarre race. I don’t know that any of us can explain it.”
Once described as a “leading presidential contender,” Jindal abruptly withdrew from the 2016 presidential race on Tuesday, saying that it was “not my time.” Anderson said Jindal had been mulling the option for several weeks before pulling the trigger.
But lately, he was running low on money. He reported having only about $261,000 in cash on hand at the end of the third fundraising quarter, which his advisers said ended up forcing his hand. Campaign manager Timmy Teepell said that the governor told campaign staffers on Monday that he would be dropping out.
“We were far behind a lot of the other people. Say what you want – it takes money to win an election,” Anderson said, though he noted that the campaign would not have any debt.
He added: “I think it was Dick Gephardt who said, ‘Campaigns don’t end, they just run out of money.'”
The intrigue around the 44-year-old Jindal as a potential GOP hopeful pervaded for years, but his luster quickly faded.
Since launching his campaign with a strange hidden-camera video stunt earlier this year, Jindal struggled to gain serious traction nationwide. He barely garnered the 1% support needed to qualify for the lower-tier Republican “undercard” debates.
Though Teepell said that Jindal’s camp wouldn’t be placing blame on others, he and Anderson did take aim at the debate-selection process, a point of contention between the lower-tier candidates and the Republican National Committee.
Jindal polled too low to qualify for the main-debate stage in any of the four series of debates. Instead, he was relegated to the early “undercard” debate.
Many pollsters and analysts have said this has unfairly advantaged candidates with higher name recognition, while pushing politicians with accomplished records – such as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and more – to the lower tier.
“Our assumption was that he was an incredibly smart, strong debater, and that he would have a chance to excel once he had a chance to compete in the debates. It never occurred to us at the time that he would be excluded from the debate stage. And I think that this whole debate gambit, the criteria used was a bad idea from the start,” Teepell said.
“We shouldn’t try to restrict these debates,” he added.
- REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
But others noted that the once rising star faced steep odds even before insurgent candidates like Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson began rising in the GOP race.
Jindal botched one of his early moments in the national spotlight when he delivered an awkward official Republican response to US President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address in 2009. His rebuttal was widely panned, and it lingered as a pervading image through the launch of his campaign.
Moreover, Jindal has become unpopular in his home state, where a recent poll found him losing to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton in a theoretical head-to-head presidential matchup.
“Louisiana has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996, but the latest poll from The Advocate/WWL-TV found Jindal also is viewed less favorably than President Barack Obama among Louisiana voters,” The Advocate, a Baton Rouge-based newspaper, wrote in a piece about the poll.
Jindal gained credibility in some circles when, in early 2013, he said that Republicans needed to “stop being the stupid party.” Coming into his run, he had pushed a campaign heavily focused on policy – tax policy, education reform, and healthcare reform among them.
Some strategists in the party lamented Jindal’s exit from the race, since it represented the failure of a policy-driven candidate to take off on the campaign trail.
“Yes, he was garnering little traction and running a presidential campaign is hard and expensive, but he has real policy chops, especially where healthcare is concerned,” Liz Mair, a former aide to the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin), told Business Insider.
She added: “We could do with a lot more of that, and a lot less of the standard ‘repeal Obamacare’ with no further plan that we seem to hear from too many of these people.”
For Jindal, the future remains unclear.
He told Fox News that he is not interested in running for the Senate. And although multiple GOP candidates hinted that he would be a great future presidential cabinet pick, Anderson said that he was doubtful the governor would be interested.
Said Anderson: “I’m skeptical of his interest in being in an administration, but that’s just me.”