How Bobby Jindal went from rising star to GOP afterthought

The Louisiana governor was once considered a Republican savior

Gov. Bobby Jindal: Fading from view.
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Four years ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) was so popular among Republicans that they chose him to give the party's response to President Barack Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress.

Now, even Obama is more popular than him in the Bayou State.

According to a Southern Media and Opinion Research poll released this week, just 38 percent of respondents rated Jindal's job performance favorably — a staggering 13-point drop since October — versus roughly 60 percent who said the opposite. Meanwhile, 43 percent of respondents said they approved of the job Obama is doing — this in a state that Mitt Romney won easily in 2012.

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Jindal's free-fall is likely tied to his recent initiatives on taxes and health care. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they opposed his plan to abolish personal and corporate taxes in favor of a higher state income tax, while six in ten opposed his plan to privatize eight of the state's public hospitals.

As a result, when asked to give Jindal's performance a letter grade, 49 percent of respondents gave it a D or an F.

Jindal's struggles at home mirror his declining stature with the party nationwide.

In 2009, some viewed Jindal as a future Republican presidential nominee. The thinking was that his impassioned conservatism, combined with his Indian-American heritage and all-American story, could save the party after its stinging defeat the previous year. Yet in what was supposed to be his big breakout performance, Jindal completely bombed his nationally televised rebuttal to Obama.

Jindal disappeared from the spotlight soon after, though he's since returned in the wake of Romney's defeat and attempted to vault himself back to prominence. He rebuked Romney for saying Obama won by promising "gifts" to poor people, delivered a rebuttal to Obama's second inaugural address, and told Republicans they needed to stop being the "stupid party."

Yet Jindal, who is widely believed to be raising his profile ahead of a 2016 presidential campaign, has not seen the desired return.

His speech in response to Obama's inauguration was "coolly received" by party leaders at the annual Republican National Committee meeting, according to BuzzFeed. And last month, he finished way back in eighth place in the CPAC straw poll, tied with Sara Palin. The poll doesn't have a good track record of predicting future presidential nominees, but the fact that Jindal earned just three percent of the vote was a knock to his future viability.

After the event, Politico named him one of CPAC's biggest losers, noting that he'd been outshone by the twin rising stars of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R. Ky.).

The widespread expectation among conservative thought leaders is that the Louisiana governor will be the 2016 cycle’s Tim Pawlenty, a nice guy who would make a great cabinet secretary for the next Republican president. He pulled 3 percent in the straw poll, tied with Palin.

It was a sign of how much Jindal has been overshadowed by Paul and Rubio that throngs of attendees streamed out of the room after Romney spoke and before he took the stage an hour later. Romney himself notably omitted Jindal, who endorsed Rick Perry in the primaries, from a list of nine Republican governors that the party can learn from. [Politico]

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