Here’s how Gov. Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign will probably end: he will finish sixth or seventh in the Iowa caucuses about this time next year. Almost broke, he will forgo the New Hampshire primary (that state allows crossover voting, so he stands little chance there).
He will then limp into South Carolina. There, his dreams for the White House will meet their humiliating end. He will be crushed again. After a day or two, he will hold a press conference in Tallahassee (or Madison) in which he will throw his support and his zero delegates to Jeb Bush (or Scott Walker).
Jindal’s reputation, already in shreds in Louisiana because of his disastrous handling of the state’s finances, will sink to its lowest level. He’ll be out of office by then, so it won’t make much difference to voters who are celebrating the end of his wretched tenure. David Vitter or Jay Dardenne will be governor by then, working furiously to clean up the stinking fiscal mess that Jindal left behind.
The narrative about Jindal will be about what it is now, only almost every person in the state will ascribe to it: in hapless pursuit of the presidency, Jindal ignored Louisiana’s problems because the solutions to those problems conflicted with his national ambitions.
Jindal refused to lead and he allowed the state to go under. When the state needed him most, during the 2015 legislative session, he was never around. On rare occasions he appeared in Baton Rouge, his presence was a hindrance. He did nothing to help the state. Every Machiavellian move was made with Iowa and South Carolina in mind.
People will say that Jindal left Louisiana far worse than he found it. Many will say – and some of them will be prominent Republicans – that Jindal was the worst governor in Louisiana history.
The overriding narrative will be that Bobby Jindal sacrificed Louisiana on the altar of his presidential ambitions.
By March or April of 2016, Jindal will be back in Baton Rouge, living in temporary housing and sulking – trying to figure out what to do next with his life and career.
His political Svengali, Timmy Teepell – who is today telling him he has a real chance to win the GOP nomination – will be busy counting all the money he made off Jindal’s embarrassing, quixotic quest for the White House. (Smiling, Teepell will think to himself: “Dang, I was right. You can make a lot of money off a losing presidential campaign.”)
That’s one way Jindal’s presidential campaign can end – and it’s the most likely outcome.
But, there is another way Jindal could give up his presidential hopes.
This way would give him a chance to salvage something of his reputation and, more important, it might do some good for his state.
Jindal won’t take this route, of course, but if he did, it would transform his political stock, in Louisiana and beyond. While it wouldn’t earn him the presidential nomination, it could repair what’s left of his reputation in Louisiana and it might even make him a viable candidate for a cabinet post, if Bush or Walker should defeat Hillary Clinton in November 2016.
The scenario that Jindal will never choose would involve Jindal delivering a speech in the next week or two in the press conference room on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. During that press conference, Jindal would say something like this:
It’s no secret that I’ve wanted to be president and that I thought I had the qualifications for that difficult job.
Our country desperately needs a president who is willing to take on radical Islam, defeat it and send its murderous adherents straight to hell.
Our country needs a president who knows how to spark an economic rebirth in this country for the beleaguered middle-class.
Our country needs a president who can enact a responsible and effective health care plan.
Our country needs a president willing to let the states set the own course in education and who gets Washington out of the way.
Our country needs a president committed to religious liberty.
It’s time to take this country in a new direction and I believe I have the vision and the talents the country needs.
But, at this time in Louisiana’s history, my state needs me more.
We are facing the most serious fiscal crisis in our state’s history. Every minute I would spend thinking about putting together a presidential campaign would be a minute I would not be devoted to solving our crisis – saving our health care system from ruin and our college and universities from disaster.
Every day spent outside Louisiana is a day I could not devote to making certain the last year of my time as governor is about, as Drew Brees says, “finishing strong.”
I want to finish strong. I want help put our state back on strong financial footing. I want to make sure Louisiana has a strong tax system that makes sense for businesses and individuals. I want to leave our universities stronger, so that our young people are better prepared for a 21st century economy in which we are competing not just against Georgia and Texas, but against China and Germany.
I want to shore up our health care system for the long haul. I want to find a way to provide health insurance for our state’s working poor.
To make the very hard choices necessary to save our state, Louisiana needs a full-time governor.
I will be that governor.
Therefore, I am today announcing that I will not seek the presidential nomination of my party. Instead, I promise to not leave the state until my term of office is over.
I will dedicate my every waking moment to securing a strong future for Louisiana. The stakes are too high for me to leave home. The risks are too great. Without strong leadership, Louisiana colleges will be devastated. If that should happen, it would take a generation to rebuild them.
I could not live with myself for putting my personal ambitions ahead of my state’s future.
So, I say to members of the Legislature, and to every citizen of this state, let us make 2015 about reviving our state.
Let us devote ourselves to making the hard-but-necessary choices to secure our future. I offer my hard-but-necessary decision as the first step in our state’s rebirth. I hope you will join me.
God bless you all. And God bless our great state.
Jindal’s speech would not only make national news and bring him praise from every political corner; it would instantly elevate his stature in Louisiana. It would restore his waning political power. It would allow him to reassert himself politically among legislators. It would give him standing to push hard choices on lawmakers and would give him the political freedom to make those hard choices.
It would instantly change the way that Louisiana’s voters view him and give him a fighting chance to recast his legacy.
It would give Jindal an opportunity to exit the presidential campaign on his terms. He would take back his narrative.
It would give him the freedom to stop committing embarrassing political stunts that do nothing to further his presidential ambitions, but which only cheapen his political stock at home.
In other words, such a speech would transform Bobby Jindal.
No one around Jindal will give him this advice, because they all have an economic or political interest in his presidential aspirations, win or lose.
And there’s no reason he should accept political advice from me, an unrelenting critic. But someone around Jindal who considers himself a friend ought to tell him the truth.
Because no one will tell him the truth, we all know how this story will end – badly, for Jindal and for Louisiana.