Bobby Jindal pitched himself on Wednesday as Louisiana’s savior, and offered himself as America’s savior, too.
"My name is Bobby Jindal, I'm governor of the great state of Louisiana and I'm running to be president of the greatest country in the world,” he said immediately upon taking the podium. The Republican’s distinct and direct style set the tone for Jindal’s entire, less than 30-minute address, which was filled with goals and specific promises.
“We’ve had enough of great talkers, it’s time for a doer,” he said, vowing to be a politically incorrect candidate and a champion of conservative principles.
“I won’t simply talk about these things. I will get these things done,” he promised.
Speaking from Kenner, in the Louisiana district that first elected him to Congress in 2004, before he became governor, Jindal listed off a half dozen policy goals – cutting government, reforming entitlements, and securing the border -- saying he “can and will” accomplish them.
“We can rock the boat and we will rock the boat,” he said. “We can repeal Obamacare and we will repeal Obamacare.”
Jindal said his four top priorities in office would be securing the border, replacing Obamacare with a new healthcare system, growing the private sector, and building up America’s military.
He promised to be an unabashed conservative, someone who wasn’t willing to hide or soften his stances.
“You’ve heard Jeb Bush say we’ve got to be willing to lose the primary to win the general election,” he said. An audience member shouted out “let him lose!” prompting one of the few off-script moments of the evening.
“We’re going to help him do that,” Jindal said with a smile.
The Republican painted himself as an outsider and a politically incorrect candidate who wouldn't shy from taking risks.
“In case it’s not clear now, I’m running for president without permission from headquarters in Washington, D.C.,” he said with a wry smile. He spoke about the nation's capitol as the enemy, saying “out here in America” things were different.
The governor courted controversy this spring when, as debate raged over controversial religious freedom bills in Indiana and Arkansas, Jindal championed even stricter legislation, which would have given absolute protections to those who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds. When the state legislature shot it down, Jindal issued an executive order mandating that those protections be instituted.
The bill and executive order earned Jindal ire from corporations who do business in the state, New Orleans’ tourism industry and activists alike; IBM even cancelled a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Baton Rouge this week because of the company’s strong opposition to the executive order. But Jindal took a populist tact, saying he won’t bow to big business and corporate pressures.
On Wednesday, Jindal boasted about turning around Louisiana, playing a video in advance of his speech in which he claimed to have rehabilitated the state’s economy and education system.
“Louisiana was in big trouble so we had to make big changes. We had to believe in Louisiana again and that’s exactly what we did,” he told the crowd, later asking the crowd to “believe again” in the American dream.
But Louisiana voters aren’t so pleased with their governor: Just 31.8% of voters approved of the job he’s doing in a poll last month – the same low level Gov. Kathleen Blanco had after her administration botched its response to Hurricane Katrina.
Jindal’s aides weren’t too worried: In a press briefing before the governor's speech Wednesday, they said that "battle scars" are just what happen when you tackle the status quo.
The announcement has been a long time coming -- the governor has spent years injecting himself into the national conversation on everything from terrorism in the Middle East to education -- and according to p2016.org, he’s already spent more than two weeks in Iowa campaigning.
Jindal barely registers on national polls, but his campaign told reporters that they’re not worried about him and that he’s won tough primaries before.
“We start from nowhere and we are completely fine with that,” adviser Curt Anderson.