Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Tuesday night that he is suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, saying he concluded he could not be successful in a “crazy, unpredictable” year.
“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 about whom he might endorse in the Republican presidential race. The remaining candidates rushed to praise Jindal in tweets and statements Tuesday night.
“Even though I’m not going to be a candidate for president, we had better elect the right president so that we can restore the American dream before it’s too late," said Jindal, a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Jindal had difficulty raising money; his campaign reported on Oct. 15 that it had just $261,000 cash on hand. His advisers acknowledged Tuesday that finances influenced his decision, although they said the campaign had no debt.
“It takes money to win elections, so that’s one of a number of factors for sure," Curt Anderson, chief strategist, told reporters. "Obviously, we did not have the kind of resources that a lot of the other candidates had."
In a crowded Republican field, Jindal was unable to gain traction. He concentrated heavily on Iowa, where he courted social conservatives and had begun to tick up in state polls. Eventually, it became an Iowa-first strategy, one that had worked for underdog candidates in the past. According to Democracy in Action, a campaign-tracking group, Jindal spent 74 days in the first caucus state, more than any other candidate.
"We'll win Iowa, and I think the race will change," Jindal said in an Oct. 13 interview after a town hall meeting in Cedar Falls, Iowa. "A lot of candidates will drop out. We'll get more focus on the candidates who are left."
But he remained essentially a non-factor in the race nationally and had been relegated to the so-called undercard stage in all four debates so far. This was a source of contention for Jindal's team, which unsuccessfully lobbied the Republican National Committee to use different criteria than national polling to determine participation in the main debates.
Jindal campaign manager Timmy Teepell told reporters Tuesday that at the outset of the race, he did not think that the governor would be "excluded" from the main debates. "I think that this whole debates gambit was a bad idea from the start," Teepell said. "As a party, we should be embracing debates. We shouldn't be afraid of ideas. We shouldn't be afraid of debating."
As the months wore on, Jindal struggled for attention in the 2016 scrum and most often got it only when elbowing into a dispute between other candidates or referring to his rivals as Democrat-lite. He described the senators in the race as talkers with "big bladders" and no achievements. He even held a news conference entirely about Donald Trump's fitness for office.
“Well, look: Obviously it wasn’t happening," Jindal told reporters outside the Fox studios. He added, “I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. I’m not going to make any excuses or blame anyone else. I’m the one that didn’t succeed in winning.”
Jindal's decision to end his campaign came suddenly. Just one day earlier, he had announced plans to continue his tour of Iowa's 99 counties later in the week.
But the Iowa trip was not to be. Jindal and his wife, Supriya, arrived at the Fox studios in Washington on Tuesday night to make an announcement. They were joined in the green room by Anderson and spokesman Kyle Plotkin, who were solemn and dressed casually.
Sitting on an armchair alongside a reporter from The Washington Post, Jindal reflected on his career in elected office and reminisced about his times as a young politician on Sunday shows and the thick, "six-inch" binders the late Tim Russert would give him.
After breaking the news on Fox, Jindal sat under the bright lights of Baier's set for a moment, dropped his head sadly and pulled his earpiece out. He grimaced and sighed. Baier extended his hand. As the governor walked out of the studio and into a shadowy hall, he huddled with his wife, who was quiet. Her eyes welled with tears. When asked by The Post reporter if she wanted to comment, Supriya Jindal put her finger to her mouth as if she was zipping it up and shook her head no.
Eight years ago, Bobby Jindal’s political future looked far brighter than it does now.
A native of Baton Rouge, he was born Piyush Jindal in 1971 but renamed himself “Bobby” after the youngest son on the “Brady Bunch” sitcom. He became a Rhodes Scholar, a McKinsey consultant and — while still in his early 20s — the head of the massive Louisiana Health Department.
Jindal ran for governor and lost, then ran for Congress and won. He was elected governor on his second try, in 2007, at age 36.
Back then, he seemed to offer an attractive new vision of what a conservative could be: an Ivy League-educated son of immigrants, who had a relentless drive to make the government run faster, smarter and cleaner. It wasn’t whether he’d be president, one prominent consultant said at the time -- it was when.
“We’ve laughed at our politicians and the ones that have gone to jail and made the funny jokes,” Jindal said in 2007. “But it’s not funny anymore.”
During his first years, he impressed people in Louisiana as a data-driven, hard-charging governor. He won positive reviews for his work during hurricanes. He thrived amid the hyper-complex problems of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
It was politics that he had trouble with. Indeed, as Jindal pondered a run for national office, he seemed to fall into a vicious negative-feedback loop.
To address doubts among national conservatives, he repeatedly embraced harder-line conservative positions — both in terms of Louisiana’s budget and social issues. But each time, he moved further away from the wonky, pragmatic persona that had made him famous in the first place.
His problems on the national stage began in 2009, when he was selected to give the GOP response to President Obama’s first address to Congress. The response wound up being more memorable than the speech — but not in a good way. Jindal seemed overly slow and overly earnest, like a man explaining the government to toddlers. People compared him to Kenneth the Page, the childlike character on the NBC comedy “30 Rock.”
Since then, Jindal has tried to rebuild his reputation among those with rigid social conservative positions in Louisiana. He issued an executive order to protect “religious freedom” for Christians, wading into an angry debate over same-sex marriage and religion just as other states were trying to wade out.
As other state governors sought to remove Confederate symbols from state property and license plates, Jindal said he would not push to get rid of Louisiana’s Confederate plates.
Jindal's combative tactics were on full display at what became his final debate appearance: last Tuesday's undercard debate in Milwaukee. Joined for the first time by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Jindal ripped into both of them as "big government" Republicans who'd never cut spending.
"If politicians say they're going to be conservative, they say they're going to cut spending, but they don't do it, why should we send them to D.C.?" Jindal asked.
Jindal's performance visibly irritated both of his rivals, but it got the kind of result he might have been looking for: A swarm of reporters followed him into the post-debate spin room, where he repeated his attacks. "Tonight, you saw the beginning of a very important debate," Jindal insisted. "Are we going to be big government Republicans, or are we going to be conservative Republicans?"
For Jindal, that "debate" ended seven days later.
David Weigel contributed to this report.