Republican primary voters have long had a habit of, as the song says, lookin’ for love in all the wrong places. This year, they appear to be doing a lot more of the same during the course of searching for a Presidential frontrunner – but the good news is that it’s yet early in the process and the polls this far out are largely meaningless. Which is a good thing, because that means voters have plenty of time to check some of their pre-conceived notions at the door and give another long, hard look at Bobby Jindal.
I understand what the knocks on Jindal are – too professorial, not combative enough, not enough TV presence. I think, quite frankly, that most of these criticisms have been baked in for years by people who haven’t really seen him in action a lot. I was able to see his full stump speech at the RedState Gathering last week, and on the merits his was the best candidate speech of the bunch – including both Cruz and Rubio. He was funny, engaging, substantive, and carried the natural ease of a man who is comfortable in his skin and has something important to say.
Against these knocks (which might well also be applied to Cruz, who is surging in the polls) stands a record that reads like exactly what Republican primary voters are looking for in a President. Jindal was swept into office facing a slew of financial difficulties that beset the State as a result of the profligate ways of his predecessors, a mass exodus of population due to Hurricane Katrina, and a legislature that was nominally Republican only because literal Democrats smelled the shifting partisan winds in the state and switched sides of the aisle (but not their basic Big Government instincts).
Against this backdrop, Jindal rejected the impulse to do what so many other Republicans who have made big promises have done, which was to go along with increased spending in order to get along. Through the judicious use of political blunt force trauma, Louisiana’s gross budget expenditures by year read as follows:
- 2008-09: $29.7 B
- 2009-10: $29.0 B
- 2010-11: $25.5 B
- 2011-12: $25.4 B
- 2012-13: $25.6 B
- 2013-14: $25.4 B
- 2014-15: $25.6 B
In each of these years, the budget was balanced, without raising taxes. Jindal’s budgetary approach has been so aggressive with respect to spending that the chief complaint about his record in office is that he has been too aggressive with his budget and that his policies are “reckless” and “irresponsible.” Many of these complaints come from the exact sort of milquetoast Republicans who have created an environment in which Donald Trump looks like a reasonable option to many for the Republican nomination.
Anyone who thinks that Bobby Jindal is an egghead or a person without any heft hasn’t attempted to move him from his position that the budget will be balanced each and every year, and that this will be accomplished without raising taxes.
But what about the accusation that Jindal really has been “reckless” or “irresponsible” – that his refusal to balance the budget on tax increases has hurt the state at the expense of his Presidential ambitions? As I have written here before, it sounds like a great attack line written by Democrats and craven Republicans, but it just isn’t true. Jindal’s budgetary policies have resulted in repeated credit rating increases for the State of Louisiana, which had one of the worst credit ratings in the country when he took office. Additionally, his policies have not hurt private sector growth, as Louisiana has by any measure been in the top 10 in the country since he took office.
Here is the reality: the next President to take office – if that President is a Republican – will inherit a Congress that is likely to be at least nominally Republican, but in reality controlled by de facto Democrats working with de jure Democrats who have the growth of Government as their singular goal. Among the candidates currently in the field, there are exactly two (Jindal and Scott Walker) who have a demonstrated record of imposing their own will as an executive – particularly on budgetary matters – on such a legislature.
The best indicator of future success is past success. Right now a lot of voters are wishcasting abilities on some candidates that they have as yet utterly failed to showcase, while ignoring perhaps the most proven candidate in the race with respect to achieving the goals they want. And that candidate is Bobby Jindal.