Inch­ing up in Iowa, Bobby Jin­dal leaves no room to his right

Louisiana gover­nor mov­ing to top tier with help from su­per PAC

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY DAVID WEIGEL AND KATIE ZEZIMA david.weigel@wash­

cedar falls, iowa — It looks like a Bobby Jin­dal cam­paign stop, but there’s some­thing strange afoot.

Be­lieve Again, not Jin­dal 2016, has rented out an Amvets hall.

Be­lieve Again, not Jin­dal, kicks off the evening Mon­day with free T-shirts that read “Amer­ica did not cre­ate reli­gious lib­erty, reli­gious lib­erty cre­ated Amer­ica,” and a prom­ise that the can­di­date will talk a lot about this.

“When I say su­per PAC, how many peo­ple think of a name­less, face­less, shady or­ga­ni­za­tion that bom­bards your tele­vi­sion with com­mer­cials?” asks Jill Ne­un­aber of Be­lieve Again.

Most of the 109 peo­ple in the room raise their hands. Good enough: Ne­un­aber ex­plains that Be­lieve Again is a “dif­fer­ent kind of su­per PAC” that has in­vited Jin­dal to “have a con­ver­sa­tion with you.”

Shortly there­after, Jin­dal ar­rives, and the con­ver­sa­tion be­gins. Cow­boy boots tucked un­der his jeans, the gover­nor of Louisiana gives a notes-free speech that hones the most pop­u­lar lines from his other notes-free speeches. “My daddy wasn’t pres­i­dent,” he says, whack­ing Jeb Bush. “It is time to fire ev­ery­body,” he says, whack­ing — well, ev­ery­body. He tells a voter wor­ried about sharia law that Louisiana has banned it, and he tells one who’s an­gry about the Supreme Court that Congress should make lib­eral jus­tices re­cuse them­selves.

It’s a stitched-to­gether cam­paign, a swag­ger­ing con­ser­va­tive mes­sage — and it may be start­ing to work. Ac­cord­ing to the cam­paign-track­ing group Democ­racy in Ac­tion, Jin­dal has spent 55 days in Iowa, tied with 2012 do-over can­di­date Rick San­to­rum for the most Hawkeye State turf time. Nei­ther can­di­date has re­ceived any na­tional lift. Both have been rel­e­gated to the “un­der­card” de­bates that only Carly Fio­r­ina man­aged to es­cape.

But a new NBC/WSJ poll found Jin­dal ris­ing to 6 per­cent in Iowa — “tied with Ted Cruz and Marco Ru­bio,” as Ne­un­aber hap­pily put it. In the av­er­age of polls col­lected by RealClearPol­i­tics, Jin­dal has es­caped the bot­tom tier. Bob Van­der Plaats, pres­i­dent of the Iowa-based Fam­ily Leader, has even writ­ten a let­ter to RNC Chair­man Reince Priebus, telling him to cram an­other lectern onto the de­bate stage for Jin­dal.

“A lot of times when peo­ple talk to me about the race, they will talk about who­ever’s in the news,” Van­der Plaats said. “Af­ter we’ve been talk­ing, they’ll say, ‘I re­ally like that Bobby Jin­dal.’ And his­tor­i­cally when you’re a lot of peo­ple’s sec­ond choice, that bodes very well for you.”

Jin­dal has got­ten there by remix­ing cam­paign tac­tics that have sur­vived the chaos of this pri­mary. Only Don­ald Trump has taken more shots at his ri­vals. Only Jin­dal has held a news con­fer­ence with no pur­pose other than to at­tack a ri­val (Trump).

And few cam­paigns de­pend more on a su­per PAC. Jin­dal’s third-quar­ter financial re­port re­vealed just $261,000 in the bank. The cam­paign raised $574,438 in that re­port­ing pe­riod; it spent $832,214. But Be­lieve Again hauled in close to $4 mil­lion, much of it from a mys­te­ri­ous non­profit called Amer­ica Next, and it’s all be­ing sprayed across Iowa.

The down­side, said former Iowa GOP po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor Craig Robin­son, is a cam­paign that has marched across Iowa rather than march­ing with Iowans.

“It’s very much a closed-loop sys­tem of Jin­dal loy­al­ists, where one of the smartest things to do in Iowa is to get some­one to help show you the way, to help you run the traps,” Robin­son said. “If he had taken a more tra­di­tional ap­proach, find some Iowans right away will­ing to help him in the process, I have no doubt he’d be higher in the polls.”

The skills that per­suaded Robin­son were on dis­play in Cedar Falls. Like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Jin­dal moves ef­fort­lessly be­tween corn­ball jokes — “my wife was my high school sweet­heart, but I wasn’t hers” — and sul­fu­ric at­tacks on the “es­tab­lish­ment.” Like Trump’s, Jin­dal’s tax plan is es­ti­mated to de­prive the Trea­sury of $9 tril­lion over 10 years. Like Cruz, Jin­dal sar­cas­ti­cally praises the Demo­cratic Party for el­e­vat­ing Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.), and says the op­po­si­tion is “hon­est,” whereas Repub­li­cans lie to their base and gov­ern like lib­er­als.

“When they lost their 60th vote, Harry Reid didn’t give up on Oba­macare,” says Jin­dal, call­ing for the end of the Sen­ate fil­i­buster. “If the other side is will­ing to shove Oba­macare and so­cial­ism down our throats, some­body on our side needs to fight just as hard for free­dom.”

The Jin­dal stump speech is a litany of ways to dis­man­tle Wash­ing­ton; the Jin­dal Q&A is a way for him to re­peat that, more loudly. Jin­dal, who turned against Com­mon Core ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards af­ter the right re­jected them, tells a woman wor­ried about the feds and schools that the Obama regime doesn’t think “we’re smart enough to run our own lives.”

“There’s only three things I think the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion should be do­ing,” Jin­dal says. “One on dereg­u­la­tion, se­condly on trans­parency, and thirdly, true civil rights en­force­ment — not all the po­lit­i­cal stuff.”

Jin­dal’s say-any­thing con­ser­va­tive ap­proach pulls out ex­actly the crowds he’s look­ing for. (Be­lieve Again, nat­u­rally, did most of the out­reach, send­ing cards to the homes of po­ten­tial vot­ers.) When Jin­dal asks for “the worst thing Pres­i­dent Obama has done,” at least two peo­ple cry out, “He was born.” One lop­ing ques­tion about gun rights — Jin­dal be­lieves in no re­stric­tions — turns out to be mo­ti­vated by fear that a mil­i­tary train­ing pro­gram called Jade Helm 15 was part of the pres­i­dent’s dark de­sign.

“Some of the troops have al­ready been trained for Jade Helm 15,” Kris Ober­heu, 61, ex­plains af­ter the speech. “Obama’s goal — and he to­tally is a Mus­lim — is to get the po­lice out of the way and have mar­tial law. If he has mar­tial law, he doesn’t have to leave of­fice.” Ober­heu, like ev­ery­one else at the speech, got to stick around for a con­ver­sa­tion and a photo. Jin­dal re­fuses to leave his events un­til the last hand is shaken. He’s talk­ing to vot­ers long af­ter the Be­lieve Again cur­tain has been rolled up and the T-shirts given away.

In an in­ter­view, he’s down­right cheer­ful about the econ­o­mists scream­ing about the tril­lions of dol­lars his tax plan would cost.

“I think that’s great,” says Jin­dal. “That was in­ten­tional. You’ve got to shrink the size of gov­ern­ment.” Any sug­ges­tion that he is pan­der­ing to the most ac­tive con­ser­va­tive vot­ers in Iowa is dis­missed as pure snob­bery.

“There is this ar­ro­gance on the left,” Jin­dal says, still smil­ing. “Peo­ple used to re­spect each other’s dif­fer­ences. Now, too many peo­ple on the left think if you’re con­ser­va­tive, you can’t be smart.”


Louisiana Gov. and GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Bobby Jin­dal has spent 55 days cam­paign­ing in Iowa. A new poll has him at 6 per­cent there.

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