Will Jindal’s strategy succeed or backfire?

It has been all Jindal all the time since this past weekend no matter where you turn. First, check out his appearance on Meet the Press where he explains why he is going to refuse (some of) Obama’s stimulus money that was bound for his peeps in Louisiana:

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Later tonight he will be giving the official Republican rebuttal to Obama’s unofficial State of the Union speech. The Republican party is clearly positioning him as the face of the opposition going in to 2012. The question I want to examine in this post is very narrow. “Is Jindal’s early visible opposition to a popular President and his rejection of money for his state going to help or hurt his presidential ambitions?” I say it will ultimately hurt him and below are the reasons why.

First let’s look at the players lining up for a shot at Obama in 2012. I believe they fall into two categories: traditionalists and pragmatists. Right now the prominent folks in the traditionalist camp include Jindal, Steele, Palin, Sanford, and Romney. In the pragmatist camp you have fewer folks like Florida governor Crist and Utah governor Huntsman. The traditionalists believe that the way to win back the White House in 2012 is to be “more Republican” and go out of your way to say that your opponents are socialists and that you will fight them with your dying breath. They believe if Republicans are true to their “ideals” (whatever those are) they will take power once again because Americans like those ideals. They ignore the passion with which their own party flung aside those ideals for at least the last eight years. Crist and Huntsman are taking the other approach. They are visibly cooperating with Obama and welcome the stimulus money for their state even if they are vilified by the mainstream Republican establishment. Like Obama, in public they say that they favor data driven solutions over partisan idealogy.

So let’s go back to Jindal now. He has thus far made two long term strategic mistakes (in my opinion) if his intention was to win the White House:

1) He has come out of stealth mode too early and made himself a target…for everyone. Obama and the Dems will make an example out of the obstructionist Jindal. They will claim he is putting his presidential aspirations above the people of his state. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin already said so. Some of his future Republican opponents will also begin to backstab him as the frontrunner they want to roll past.

He is only 37 years old. He should have slow-played his strong hand by waiting until 2010 to see how Obama’s stimulus strategy worked and then making his move if it didn’t work well or waiting until 2016 if it did. In poker terms, he is going all-in before the flop and everyone on the table knows his “tell.”

2) He’s leaves himself wide-open to be labeled as a flip-flopper or a hypocrite. This is similar to how Sarah Palin said she did not accept money for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” except that she did.

Clyburn went on to accuse the 37-year-old GOP phenom of post-Katrina hypocrisy:

“In the wake of a natural disaster after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, then-Congressman Jindal cosponsored and supported legislation to expand unemployment benefits and inject federal dollars into Louisiana’s unemployment trust fund. Yet today in the face of a financial disaster and record unemployment, he opposes similar action under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. What changed?”

“That’s why there is a provision in the law to allow state legislatures to draw down funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by concurrent resolution if their governor doesn’t act within 45 days. I’ve spoken to legislative leaders from South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi whose constituents are in desperate need of fiscal stimulus–these leaders don’t plan to leave any money on the table.” [Link]

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p>Crist and Hunstman come away from all this looking pretty good. They are separating themselves from the Republican pack (especially the unpopular D.C. Republican pack) by publicly cooperating with Obama. Americans love cooperators. They also have left plenty of room to come back and say that Obama had the right strategy but a flawed execution and that they could do better.

In short, I think Jindal should re-think his strategy and take it down a notch if the boy wonder hopes to ever win the White House. Right now I would bet against him.

17 thoughts on “Will Jindal’s strategy succeed or backfire?

  1. my issue with jindal is this: his state is still suffering from the disaster of Katrina, Bush never gave him the funding he needed, now that he is getting the money he is refusing it? Luckily for the people of LA he doesn’t have the power to say No, the state legislature of LA are the ones who have to approve the funds.

  2. The other issue is that in the next 4 years, the issue of immigration reform is bound to come up. As the prospective GOP contender, he is bound to be asked about his immigration viewpoint. If he comes out in favor of immigration reform, he looks like a slightly more red McCain. If he is an anti, then he alienates pretty much any immigrant minority group.

    Plus, with the question of Obama’s Kenyan father making Obama ineligible in the hardcore GOP’s eyes, Jindal is a “anchor baby,” as per the definition outlined by FAIR, NumbersUSA and Tancredoites, since his parents were on student visas when he was born.

    He should have let these issues resolve themselves before he set foot forward.

  3. He’s leaves himself wide-open to be labeled as a flip-flopper or a hypocrite.

    So, the first comment isn’t by me, but Jon Stewart’s review of Jindal’s “principled” stand (2:55) was his most cutting one since his summary of Benjamin Button.

    I think Obama needs to come down harder on the banks though if he wants continued support for the stimulus campaign from the public. Right now, it seems like the banks are getting hundreds of billions with very little accountability, and since the Republicans are going to stand in the way irrespective of what he does, I really hope there is a stronger push for nationalization (or whatever is the politically palatable word) in return for pouring in all this money to shore up these failing institutions.

  4. your premise is wrong. what if it is not a strategy? and it is “c”onservative belief. i do agree with the nut of the argument. why bail out failing businesses by doling out money and then charging the very same businesses a magnified amount in tax? in stead, collect less money from those businesses at the smb status and help them go longer with the amount that they have.
    i know i am not american. no need to remind me. but i take this fight to ottawa as well. if you create processes for people/businesses to get benefits – they will focus on getting unemployment benefits rather than churning the economy. instead, help them get breaks on capital gains and they will bust a hump to make those gains.
    if expressing outrage and appealing to reason is ‘strategy’ then so be it. the guy deserves to be prez.

  5. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he’d take any funds (from other state governors refusing Obama’s monetary offerings) to help out California. I don’t know if this meant to be a joke, but perhaps California will get mucho dinero in the next few months. Jindal is one of a number of state governors turning down money for their states.

  6. 5 · gm said

    Jindal is one of a number of state governors turning down money for their states.

    Don’t know about the others, but as Stewart pointed out, Jindal is only saying he will refuse it. And taking $3.7B out of $3.8B that he’s being offered. Plus it is a bit late in the day to summon up outrage against the federal dole, given that the stimulus is only a relatively small increment (on average) of what states already get.

  7. khoofia: econ research has long focused on the moral hazard of unemployment benefits. and it seems that it is quite possible to design unemployment benefits with the right kind of features: temporary insulation for the really needy and manageable moral hazard. for instance, one could have a really generous one-time severance package, but not monthly benefits except for a period of health insurance (IMO, health insurance should be single-payer like across the border but that is a story for another time). such a package would not incentivize delay in finding a new job, but at least allow a cushion for the time it takes to transition.

    also relevant here are raj chetty’s interesting findings on unemployment benefits:

    One suggestive finding is that when unemployment insurance becomes more generous, not everybody lingers on benefits. The median job-loser in the US has $200 when he loses his job and is unlikely to be able to borrow much, but some people have plenty of money in the bank when they find themselves unemployed. Chetty found that those with savings do not take any longer to find a job when paid more generous benefits, while those with little in the kitty when they lose their jobs do. This suggests that those without their own cash reserves are using unemployment benefits to buy themselves time to find the right job

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    concentrating on capital gains policy is good IMO; but those kind of policy instruments (likely) do little for recently unemployed salaried blue-collar workers. intuitively, such people probably do not have opportunities for making huge capital gains in the first place, right? a case could be made for trickle-down gains or some kind of big multiplier effect on the economy from modifying capital gains policy, but only if you show me the money first :)

  8. khoofia: econ research has long focused on the moral hazard of unemployment benefits. and it seems that it is quite possible to design unemployment benefits with the right kind of features: temporary insulation for the really needy and manageable moral hazard. for instance, one could have a really generous one-time severance package, but not monthly benefits except for a period of health insurance (IMO, health insurance should be single-payer like across the border but that is a story for another time). such a package would not incentivize delay in finding a new job, but at least allow a cushion for the time it takes to transition.

    i will give you a personal example. a month ago i offered a guy a part time position. he wanted me to put his homemaker wife on the payroll because he didnt want to lose out on the unemployment benefit which he would lose if he went above a certain $ per month. the guy is smart. i could see a future for him with us but once someone’s lips are champed around the government’s teats it’s hard to let go. it just rubbed me raw and i passed on him. this is a person’s example – but it works at every level of an organization. so i agree with you in principle. jindal’s justification is also something i agree with. there is no such thing as free money. the bailout will have to be paid back – so it makes sense. admittedly i first started listening to him because he is indian – but i am still listening because he talks well and he makes good sense.
    to head back to abhi’s question – i dont think this is as much strategy as it is a principled stand. it’s his job to govern and he seems to be making good decisions. one can even call it a gamble, because he’s going against the tide. additionally, as the jokesters put it, it doesnt keep him from accepting the money … if it can be used elsewhere in infrastructure etc.

    concentrating on capital gains policy is good IMO; but those kind of policy instruments (likely) do little for recently unemployed salaried blue-collar workers. intuitively, such people probably do not have opportunities for making huge capital gains in the first place, right?

    from my personal experience allowing busineses to keep more money incentivizes them to hire more to create more wealth. offering salaried blue-collar workers money is good if it keeps the wolf from the door, but it doesnt create new jobs.

    I agree with the idea of a one-time cushion as opposed to a monthly take home. good link on chetty.

  9. As far as Abhi’s main point – “come out of stealth mode too early”? Any press is good press at this point. If he kicks up a fuss and ends up taking the stimulus package anyway, people won’t remember his opposition to the stimulus (voters have short memories), but it will certainly score him points with GOP primary types.

    If he is an anti, then he alienates pretty much any immigrant minority group.

    Immigrants/minorities are unlikely to vote GOP anyway, even for Jindal.

  10. Immigrants/minorities are unlikely to vote GOP anyway, even for Jindal.

    i hope you are not right. there are certain elements of the GOP platform that are very appealing to the non-refugee type immigrant/minority community regardless of the social stratum they occupy.

  11. That’s true. My statement was probably too broad of a generalization, and more true for non-white voters as a whole than for immigrants specifically. But immigrants and minorities have skewed heavily Democratic in the last two presidential elections, and all other things being equal, I don’t see any reason why Jindal would have any particular appeal for them (besides Indians, and even there the appeal might be limited).

  12. “Obama’s Kenyan father making Obama ineligible in the hardcore GOP’s eyes,”

    uff. That again? Hey, he’s in. Still, may as well get the facts straight then. The issue(s) is(are) Obama’s purported Kenyan birth, Indonesian passport, and lack of a birth certificate. People go to a lot of trouble to obey the born on American soil rule–ever heard of anchor babies. Other countries have rules about birth certificates–one poor kid in “Born in brothels” almost didn’t get to visit America and display her photos, because her mom couldn’t find her birth certificate. Muslim father/stepfather? Irrelevant. Constitutional recipe for America: take church and state, separate. On the up and up, this is an opportune time to introduce legislation waving the annoying requirements for authentic birth certficates for government jobs and passports. I do believe a trend has started and it’s only democratic that we all benefit. Getting a secret clearance, much less a top secret clearance, would be way less of a bitch.

  13. 13 · Sertorius said

    That’s true. My statement was probably too broad of a generalization, and more true for non-white voters as a whole than for immigrants specifically. But immigrants and minorities have skewed heavily Democratic in the last two presidential elections, and all other things being equal, I don’t see any reason why Jindal would have any particular appeal for them (besides Indians, and even there the appeal might be limited).

    I thought the entire concept of Jindal was to show that the republican party welcomed diversity and to take away a percentage of the minority vote away from Obama. I dont just mean Indian Americans or even Asian Americans…I meant Hispanics…since Jindal (being Catholic and brown) can appeal to them.

  14. Btw… the conservative radio trimurti (Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin) were out in full force defending the “substance” of Jindal’s speech as opposed to the “style.” These guys are like evil bollywood mother-in-laws…defending their failed sons at any cost.