Friday, April 5, 2013

Bobby Jindal's bad year

Bobby Jindal, fast out of the gate, but galloping the wrong way 

When Bobby Jindal's approval rating fell to an anemic 38% in this week's Southern Media and Opinion Research survey, it was just the latest in a series of bad headlines for the governor.

You can break down the morosity by category: state polls, policies, and national polls/chatter.

State polls:

From a topline perspective, the carnage is abundant. 

According to this week's Southern Media and Opinion Research poll, Jindal's approval sits at 38%/60% in Louisiana  -- a slide of 13% in five months. 

Even worse, both Barack Obama and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu enjoy higher approval ratings than Bobby in the state. And, keep in mind, Obama lost the state by 18% to Romney in 2012.

Further, 33% of Republicans and 68% of independents disapprove of his performance -- alarmingly bad numbers for a guy who was once one of the most popular governors in the country.

It would be one thing if this were just one poll, but the other, most recent survey -- a February poll from the Democratic group, Public Policy Polling -- put Jindal at 37%/57% in the state, which is nearly identical to this week's SMOR poll. 

And another recent PPP poll suggested a dead heat in the state between Hillary Clinton and Jindal in a hypothetical 2016 race. 

Now, of course, it's utterly insane to infer that Hillary could or would actually win a state that Obama lost by 18%, but it's yet another indicator of how much Jindal is truly struggling.

Just 27% like Jindal's tax proposal

So why is Jindal struggling so much?

It's all about this next part.


Jindal unveiled a massive tax proposal this year -- one that scuttles the state's income and corporate tax, while raising sales tax to make up for the lost revenue (a non-partisan analysis suggested it actually wouldn't close the gap).

Undoubtedly, it would have served as the centerpiece of a presidential bid. 

But unfortunately for Jindal, the proposal has been overwhelmingly unpopular -- vexed by a troubled rollout that saw the administration raising estimates on the sales tax (6.25%) and vexed yet again when Louisiana's largest business lobbying group came out against it, claiming that it would hurt business interests

It's not surprising, then, that only 27% of residents actually like the plan, while 63% oppose it. In a red state! If you're proposing scuttling the income and corporate tax in a red state, and can only drum up 27% of your residents to support it, either your messaging or plan or both are pretty awful. 

But taxes don't tell the whole story of his home state woes. 

His other budget moves -- like further cutting education and health care spending -- are tremendously unpopular. 80% of residents oppose the further cuts and to make matters worse, some Republicans in the legislature have filed a lawsuit, claiming the Jindal Administration has been up to tricksy things with its budgeteering. 

Jindal also faced a devastating ruling on education reform last month when a judge ruled that four sections of the law he championed were unconstitutional. 

What made it even worse? 

Previously, the judge had affirmed three sections and tabled the fourth, but when he finally addressed the fourth, he reversed his earlier rulings on three sections and tossed them all out as "unconstitutional."

That's like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton rescinding their letters of acceptance when they find out Brown rejected you. That's a tough night to deal with.

The Beltway loves Jindal, but only 3% of primary voters agree

National 2016 polls:

Jindal's name pops up on nearly every 2016 list as a top tier guy, but so far, his polling, nationally, has been abysmal.

In this week's PPP poll of a national GOP primary, Jindal only managed to hit 4% -- good for seventh place and only ahead of the hapless Rick Perry and the obscure Susana Martinez. 

Some of that is understandable. 

48% of Republicans said they still hadn't made up their minds about him, indicating he has much lower name ID than guys like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul (30%, 28%, and 24%, respectively, were unsure about those candidates).

But if that's a reasonable caveat, here's the important to note -- it's not like Bobby Jindal has been hiding and biding his time. 

He's been provoking chatter in GOP circles ever since 2007, he's been part of two Veepstakes' circuses, he's given a State of the Union response, he's been briefly turned into a national punchline, and post-2012, has inserted himself into the GOP's intraparty conversation forcefully and dynamically.

This hearkens back to the same arc we saw with Tim Pawlenty heading into the 2012 cycle. For three years, T-Paw continually blamed his poor polling on name ID. 

But the problem with that was that his poor name ID was a reflection of how underwhelming his political machinations were. 

In other words, if you're screaming from the street and people don't seem to hear you, something's wrong with your scream.

On the face of it, it seems sort of absurd to compare Jindal with Pawlenty, but their inability to gain any sort of traction is hauntingly similar.

Even by this point, top tier candidates are proving why they're top tier, but Jindal just hasn't been able to break into the elite.

His performance in 2013 national polls: 4%, 3%, 4%, and 3%,  Doubtless, there are other '16 polls floating around, but doubtless, Jindal probably only manages 3%-4% in them.

Let's move now to the biggest straw poll of 2013, thus far -- the CPAC straw poll.

Granted, it's an unscientific poll, but Marco Rubio and Rand Paul's top two finishes were pretty good reflections of the buzz around their potential candidacies. 

Jindal also took the stage at CPAC, except he didn't actually take it (if you feel me), he stood on it, completely underwhelmed, and when it came to the straw poll results, he only managed his familiar 3% -- good for just 9th place. Chris Christie, the bete noire of the convocation, more than doubled Jindal's performance.

But of course, Jindal fans will point to his low name ID, but remember, his name ID wasn't low at CPAC, and again, the basic point is that his mediocrity is probably to blame for his lower, national, name ID. He's certainly had his fair share of lights, camera, action moments by now without anything close to a blockbuster.

There's time, of course, but that was T-Paw's perpetual excuse -- that time would vindicate his name and candidacy. 

Jindal needs to start connecting -- goodness knows he's been trying -- but that stubborn 3% isn't much to show for all the promise and expectations he once seemed to offer.

It might be early, but Jindal isn't new to this. The first might forgive his underwhelming rollout, but the second makes it more serious.