It was Mike Huckabee in 2008, then Rick Santorum in 2012.
Now, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is working Iowa hard with the hopes he could be the state’s surprise victor of 2016.
“I think we’re doing very well in Iowa,” Jindal said in a recent interview with The Daily Caller about his new book “American Will: The Forgotten Choices That Changed Our Republic — And Offer Lessons For Its Future.”
“I think this entire race changes after February 1, after the caucus,” the Republican presidential candidate said. “I think we’re going to win here in Iowa, and I think that’s going to propel us forward to the nomination.”
Jindal has a long way to go before the state votes in less than 100 days: Iowa’s last two Republican winners, Huckabee and Santorum, are running again. Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are polling ahead of him too.
But a NBC poll this month showing Jindal in fifth place in Iowa has given him optimism, considering Santorum was barely registering in the polls at this time four years ago before going on to win the state’s caucuses.
Jindal has been to 53 of Iowa’s 99 counties so far, doing town-hall meetings.
“We’re moving up in Iowa,” he said. “We’re doing well. We’re seeing more and more crowds. I know voters here tend to decide late.”
Talking about his new book, which came out last week, Jindal said: “So many of these political books are the same old kind of boring recitations of different policy prescriptions or folks’ autobiography. I wanted to do something a little more interesting. So I wanted to actually tell important stories about some of our country’s key figures at pivotal and important moments in our nation’s history.”
Jindal, raised Hindu, also uses the book to talk about his own life and his conversion to Christianity as a young man. His parents, he recalls, weren’t thrilled with his decision.
“They were shocked by that,” he recalled in an interview. “I think they went through different stages. At first it was something they needed to understand — why I was doing this, what this meant, how serious was I, was this a fad?”
Jindal said his conversion to Christianity was a process lasting seven years.
Asked about Hillary Clinton’s testimony last week on Benghazi, Jindal said: “This is about four Americans that died, it’s about figuring how and why that happened and how do we prevent that from happening in the future.”
“Secondly, it’s important to step back and remember the only thing that Hillary Clinton has ever run has been this president’s foreign policy. It has been a failure everywhere around the world.”
Citing Russia, Iran, China and ISIS, Jindal said: “This whole idea of leading from behind hasn’t worked. Projecting weakness has only emboldened our adversaries, and it has been an absolute failure everywhere around the world. Our friends don’t trust us and our enemies don’t fear and respect us.”
Asked about Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s likely ascension to speaker of the House next week, Jindal said: “I like Paul. We served together. I think he’s a smart guy. I think he’s a principled guy.”
“Here are the questions I would ask, whether it’s Paul or anybody else that wants to be speaker, if I were still in the conference,” Jindal said. “I’d want to know will our leadership make a commitment to fight for our principles, just as hard as Pelosi and Reid and Obama will fight for theirs?”
Jindal says he will participate in next week’s undercard debate in Colorado, something his campaign had suggested was up in the air while they argued he should be included in the prime-time debate with those polling at the top of the field.
“I’m happy to debate anybody anywhere anytime,” he said.
The Republican said the RNC and the networks hosting the debate are making a mistake by using national polls, instead of polls in the early states, to determine who gets to participate in the primetime debate.
“The reality is we don’t have a national primary,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake to try to clear the field. I think the RNC should be paying attention to where the voters are, the first votes are counted in these early states.”
“If they did,” he added, “obviously we’d be on the main stage.”