The Slatest

Snarky Iowa Republicans Cannot Stop the Jindal Campaign

Bobby Jindal
Bobby Jindal’s staff stepped in when it looked like one Republican in Iowa was about to kill off the governor’s presidential campaign Sunday. Jindal is pictured above on Sept. 19, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

It’s tough these days picking an appropriate adjective for Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign. Struggling? Beleaguered? Flagging? All of them seem simultaneously overdramatic and less dire than the situation calls for. Jindal has been hanging around at the bottom of national polls since launching his 2016 bid at a Christian revival and he’s barely a rounding error at 1 percent in the most recent numbers released by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal this weekend.

National polls aren’t everything. A low-polling candidate can break through in an early primary or caucus and upset an “inevitable” front-runner—just ask Rick Santorum—but pulling off a Cinderella story in Iowa means keeping ground presence going there until January. That’s hard to picture for Jindal when the Louisiana governor has now “become desperate” with “nothing going on” in the state that holds the country’s first presidential contest.

That derisive assessment of Jindal’s campaign is from an “Iowa Republican” consulted by Politico for the “Politico Caucus,” a weekly semi-anonymous survey of early-state political players, and it was posted along with similar nuggets of insider wisdom on Friday morning. When the New Orleans Times-Picayune drew on Politico to craft Sunday’s headline “Jindal Soon to End Presidential Run, Website Predicts,” it apparently overestimated the power of the Internet to process the meaning of that final clause.

The Times-Picayune article seems to be the source of Sunday’s excited chatter about “reports” that Jindal was moving to end his campaign, which amounted to the most attention Jindal has gotten in a depressingly large number of news cycles. After failing to grab many headlines in either of the GOP debates, both of which he’s spent at the kids table, his radical call for every member of Congress to resign was completely buried on Friday by the news of one of those members stepping down. It took rumors of his campaign’s death for the political media to expend attention on its continued existence.

Jindal has struggled to be taken seriously from the beginning, since for some he will always be the Kenneth the Page of politics, and he is currently jockeying for last place with George Pataki in the nomination contest. Politico’s harsh dismissal of his chances came on the same day it was reported that the GOP’s foremost expert on sexual health, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, had pulled his long-standing support for Jindal and taken up with Donald Trump.

The number-crunchers at FiveThirtyEight put up their own well-reasoned take Friday on Jindal’s chances as a “sleeper pick” to pull off an Iowa win. Still, it’s a bad sign when stale, unattributed pontifications need only minimal repackaging to set off a flurry of dropout rumors about your campaign, and there is a unique indignity in a candidate’s representatives having to reach out to a hometown paper with this kind of a statement:

Jindal’s staff sought to discredit a story in Politico that Jindal planned to quit running, calling the report “B.S.” […]

“These ‘insiders’ are made up of other campaign staff who want to attack Gov. Jindal,” spokeswoman Shannon Dirmann said.

It could be argued that the other Republican campaigns are getting by just fine without taking any special measures to “attack” Gov. Jindal, since his position in the low single digits of Iowa polling hardly makes him a threat that needs to be neutralized. And Politico’s “insiders” had plenty of snarky comments about others in the primary field, with one saying George Pataki would have to realize that “the Spice Girls were big in the 1990s, too, but no one wants to see them on a reunion tour” and another remarking that Rand Paul’s 2016 operation had the “stench of death.”

Sunday’s Jindal dropout scare was nothing more than a cluster of trigger-happy tweets set off by one ambiguously worded headline that circulated during peak brunch-table-waitlist, idle-Twitter-scrolling time, and it’ll take more than that to get Bobby Jindal out of the race. In an interview with the Washington Examiner this week, the governor pushed his commitment to his primary run’s “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apply conservative principles” and vowed that “as long as I’ve got breath, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got to save our country.”

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the 2016 campaign.