Today, the frenetic Jindal is one of the great mysteries of the early 2016 campaign: the rising star who has stalled.
Not long ago, the Louisiana governor was the Republican candidate of the future — the son of immigrants and also a proud product of the Deep South. He is a devout Catholic, an experienced governor and — in a political sphere dominated by shallow cable-television shouters — a data-driven Rhodes Scholar.
But now, Jindal sits at about 2 percent in national Republican polls. He has become such an afterthought that he recently resorted to asking himself a “gotcha” question. The media hadn’t bothered, and he wanted to stay in the conversation.
For the first time in a life of wild successes, Jindal looks lost. He has applied his trademark work ethic to the task of becoming a better politician, but he has instead wound up looking as if he’s trying to be every politician at once. A hawk. A wonk. A tea party rebel. A Christian revivalist. A first-generation American. A Bubba.
He failed to win over his party by following its old rules — climb the ladder, run a state, impress Norquist. Now, he is trying out a post-tea party playbook for gaining power.
Get on TV. Impress Norquist. And call any Republican in Washington who has power a dastardly sellout.
Jindal “is throwing rhetorical bombs to get noticed. He is getting noticed but not in a way that helps him with large donors,” Erick Erickson, the influential conservative, wrote after seeing Jindal attack the congressional GOP at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
“I think Jindal has a path forward,” Erickson wrote. “But the one he has chosen degrades all his accomplishments and leaves him looking less than the bright light he is.”