KENNER, Louisiana — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, pitching himself as a “doer” in a field of talkers, has declared his candidacy for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination and set about trying to distinguish himself from better known rivals.
It’s a long-shot effort for an accomplished but overshadowed governor, and his prospects will depend in large measure on his continued courtship of evangelical voters. But several other contenders also are determined to win over that group.
“We have a bunch of great talkers running for president,” Jindal said at his opening rally June 24. “It’s time for a doer. I’m not running for president to be somebody. I’m running for president to do something.”
Jindal, the nation’s first elected Indian-American Governor, can point to a political career filled with many achievements in a short time: a position as state health secretary when he was merely age 24, election to Congress at 32 and election as governor four years later.
But the Republican lineup does not lack seasoned politicians, some with much more star power.
Jindal announced his campaign online earlier June 24. Video clips on his website showed Jindal and his wife, Supriya, talking to their three children about the campaign to come.
Aides discussed Jindal’s plans to focus on social conservatives, as he has done for months in extensive travels, and highlight his reputation as a leader steeped in policy.
Jindal intends to present himself as “the youngest candidate with the longest resume,” citing an extensive background in public policy and government, strategist Curt Anderson said.
Unpopular at home, Jindal waited until the state legislative session had ended and lawmakers found a way to close a $1.6 billion budget gap before he scheduled his Presidential announcement.
But he has been building his campaign for months with trips to key presidential voting states, particularly Iowa, where he has focused on Christian conservatives.
Raised Hindu but a convert to Catholicism as a teenager, Jindal has talked of his religious faith in small churches across Louisiana. As he readied his presidential campaign, the governor put out an executive order to grant special “religious freedom” protections to people in Louisiana who oppose same-sex marriage.
He is competing with several contenders, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also are trying to appeal to the same pool of evangelical voters.
While Jindal will continue to focus on “religious liberty,” Anderson said, he aims to prove a candidate can be “both smart and Christian.” And in recent weeks, Jindal has worked to showcase more of the policy wonk reputation that got him elected governor, rather than just focusing on cultural issues.
He has drawn distinctions from other Republican contenders by noting he has published “detailed plans” on health care, defense, education and energy policy.
He has suggested Governors are better equipped to become President because they have run state governments, balanced budgets and implemented policy.
That’s an argument, however, that other White House hopefuls are making or can: Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
And Jindal doesn’t get glowing reviews of his governance at home, as both Republicans and Democrats blame the governor’s financial policies for causing repeated budget crises and suggest those policies are driven by political ambitions.