On paper, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal seemed like a promising presidential candidate. But after six months of competing in the crowded Republican presidential primary with few results, Jindal suspended his campaign on Tuesday.
The young, deeply religious Louisiana governor had smarts, deep conservative credentials and clear ambition. A wonky social conservative, Jindal had a policy alternative for everything from taxes to Obamacare, and he easily translated his own immigrant family’s story into a compelling stump speech about the American dream. But in a race dominated by Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, flooded by social conservatives and fixated on political outsiders, nothing about the articulate Southerner stuck.
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Despite campaigning heavily, Jindal’s never rose above 1 or 2% in national polls, even when he took on bigger fish – including sparring with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the most recent Republican debate and declaring Trump a “carnival act.” Jindal is the third sitting or former governor to drop out of the race; as candidates without political experience surge, those with the kind of executive experience typically celebrated in presidential campaigns have failed to shine this year.
“This is not my time, so I am suspending my campaign,” Jindal said in a statement.
“I’ve spent much of my campaign putting out detailed policy papers and the reality is given this unpredictable crazy election year, I know that that’s not the most interesting or exciting thing,” Jindal told NBC News after announcing his decision to drop out.
Leading up to his presidential bid, Jindal tackled his party’s most contentious issues from the governor’s mansion, releasing a conservative health care proposal and filing a lawsuit against President Obama over Common Core education standards. After announcing his presidential campaign, Jindal focused heavily on Iowa, where he spent the most time of any candidate in Iowa, racking up 74 days there total according, to p2016.org. Still, he never rose above fifth place in polls there, with just 6% support in a September NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey.
The governor struggled to fundraise – he raised just $579,438 in the third quarter, while the leading candidate Dr. Ben Carson raised $20 million in the same time period – but the campaign said he leaves the race with no debt.
Jindal’s prioritization of Iowa may have perhaps been a dated strategy. With more than a dozen Republicans running for the party’s nomination, early national polls gained unusual importance this year, as the GOP debates featured only the top-polling candidates on a main stage during prime time, while lower-polling candidates were relegated to an earlier undercard debate.
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“We think he’s a terrific debater, he just never got the opportunity,” chief strategist Curt Anderson said after Jindal’s announcement. In a call with reporters, Jindal’s campaign called it a “bizarre race.”
The campaign denied that the governor’s low approval numbers in Louisiana meant heading back to the state for the final few months of his second term as governor would be uncomfortable, or that controversial budget dealings – and his state’s massive deficit – had hurt his presidential campaign. The campaign said he was expected to land back in Louisiana Tuesday night. “He’s going home,” Anderson said.
But this is not the first time the governor has struggled on the national stage. A rising Republican star in 2008, he gave a disastrous rebuttal to Obama’s first State of the Union address; later, he was short-listed – but passed up – to be Gov. Mitt Romney’s vice president in the 2012 presidential campaign.
“He’s the youngest candidate in the race, youngest candidate running, and he has a bright future,” campaign manager Timmy Teepell told reporters.