‘It’s Been A Bizarre Race’: Bobby Jindal’s Advisers Reflect On What Went Wrong

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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“It’s been a bizarre race,” Bobby Jindal’s chief campaign strategist, Curt Anderson, told reporters after the Louisiana governor dropped out of the Republican presidential contest Tuesday evening. “I don’t know that anyone else can explain it.”

Referring to Donald Trump and Ben Carson — though without specifically mentioning the political neophytes by name — Anderson said anyone who “could’ve predicted” they would be the Republican frontrunners is “smarter than anyone else in the world.”

Jindal, who struggled in the polls and in raising money during his five months running for president, had been mulling withdrawing from the contest for several weeks now, according to his top campaign aides. By Monday, Jindal informed his senior staff he would pull the plug on the campaign. On Tuesday, he announced his withdrawal in an interview with Bret Baier of Fox News.

“It’s not easy,” Anderson said of Jindal’s decision. “I mean, he’s a fighter and his instinct is to never give up. But I think also you have to be realistic in politics and you have to look at what your opportunity is and what your chances are. And I think he decided it just wasn’t going to happen for him this time. Not an easy decision, but that’s the decision he made.”

During a conference call with reporters Tuesday night, Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s campaign manager, said the campaign assumed from the beginning that because the governor was a “strong debater…he would excel once he had a chance to compete in the debates.”

But Jindal, because of low national poll numbers, never made it to the primetime stage with the top-tier candidates. He was relegated to the so-called undercard debates.

“It never occurred to us at the time that he could be excluded from the debate stage,” Teepell acknowledged. “But I think that this whole debate gambit, the criteria used, was a bad idea from the start.”

Anderson reiterated the campaign’s annoyance with the focus on national polls, and not early state polls, to determine debate participants.

“We don’t have national primaries so national polling is kind of irrelevant and clearly any metric should use the early state polls,” he said.

Anderson said the campaign didn’t raise the money they wanted, but that was not the only reason Jindal withdrew.

“I think it’s everything, but fundraising is certainly a part of it,” he said.

“As for the campaign we had, a very lean campaign staff. We kept expenses to a minimum, we don’t have any debt,” Teepell said. “A lot of campaigns end with people pointing fingers at each other. You’re not going to see that from this campaign.”

If one thing is clear: this wasn’t the presidential campaign Jindal, who portrays himself as a policy wonk, imagined running.

Announcing his campaign in New Orleans in June, Jindal told supporters: “The guy in the White House today is a great talker, and we have a bunch of great talkers running for president. We’ve had enough of talkers. It’s time for a doer.”

But Jindal may be best remembered for his sharp attacks on Trump, who Jindal described in one speech as “dangerous,” “a narcissist,” “an egomaniac,” “unserious” and a “gift” to the Democrats.

During last week’s undercard debate, Jindal aggressively went after his rivals, specifically New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“Chris, look,” Jindal memorably said at one point, “I’ll give you a ribbon for participation and a juice box. But in the real world, it’s about results. It’s about actually cutting government spending, not just talking about cutting government spending.”

Speaking of the 44-year-old Jindal’s future, Teepell said: “He was the youngest candidate running. He has a bright future. And I don’t know exactly what he’ll do next, but I know that he will keep driving the debate.”

Asked if Jindal would be interested in working for a potential Republican president in 2017, Anderson said: “I’m skeptical of his interest in being in an administration, but that’s just me.”

Asked if Jindal would be interested in a future Louisiana Senate race, Teepell simply replied: “No.”

“We’re all very proud to have worked for Gov. Jindal, and we backed him because we think he’s the person most capable to be president,” Anderson said.

Jindal said Tuesday he plans to continue churning out policy ideas at a think tank once he leaves the governorship in January.

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