Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Rhodes scholar and policy wonk who refashioned himself as a staunch right-winger, exited he presidential race Tuesday evening. The Post reported:
“I’ve come to the realization that this is not my time,” Jindal said on Fox News Channel in an interview with Bret Baier. “We spent a lot of time developing detailed policy papers. Given this crazy, unpredictable election season, clearly there wasn’t an interest in those policy papers.”
Jindal, 44, who is leaving office at the end of this year after completing his second term as governor, said he has not given much thought to who he might endorse in the Republican presidential race. The remaining candidates rushed to praise Jindal in tweets and statements Tuesday night.
In fact, had Jindal stuck to his profile as an innovative governor, he might have found a place in the race, especially as Jeb Bush stumbled. Competing with the likes of Donald Trump and Ben Carson for the affection of the tea party, however, was fruitless. Jindal wisely recognized he was doing himself no favors by playing the gadfly aggressor in the “happy hour” debates.
On one hand, his disappearance may not change much in the race. With only 0.3 percent support in the RealClearPolitics national average, he had few supporters to redistribute to others. However, he was doing somewhat better in Iowa, so his disappearance aids Trump, Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), who need to finish at or near the top of the field in caucuses in which social conservatives play a disproportionately large role.
There is a temptation to cite Jindal’s flop as evidence that 2016 is not a year for governors. It is true Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Jindal — all governors — are the first to fall out. That may in fact suggest these men are more practical and think they might hold office in the future, as opposed to non-competitive senators and non-politicians who operate under the delusion it is only a matter of time before they catch on. (Maybe the question is why characters like Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Rick Santorum are still in the race.) It is too early to say governors as a rule are not up to the rigors of a national campaign. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush remain in the hunt.
The most important result of Jindal’s withdrawal may be an impetus to disband the happy-hour debate altogether. There is little justification for including Santorum and George Pataki, both under 1 percent in the RCP average, in any debate. The field can now be consolidated into a single debate. Including everyone over 4 percent in either a national or early-state poll would reduce the participants to a manageable number (Trump, Carson, Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Kasich, Bush and Christie).
Jindal reminds us of two basic rules of politics: Be yourself. Better candidates beat worse ones.
As more candidates exit, the voters, one hopes, will focus more intently on the quality of those who remain. Jindal deserves the GOP’s thanks for accelerating that process.