Monday, July 13, 2015

The year of the shitty governor

You may be aware Governor Bobby Jindal is running for President.  This is a matter of some ridicule for most people. And that's only appropriate, of course. Bobby's made a wreck of the state budget, made creationism part of the school curriculum, privatized and/or shut down state hospitals, permitted cronies to loot the state's Medicaid allocationdone political favors for oil companies, shat all over the notion of equality under the law, other things.

A major knock on Bobby has to do with the inconvenient fact that he is governor of a state where everybody hates him. This is considered a weakness in the Republican Presidential primary. But is it? Just because a product may have grown stale in one market doesn't mean it isn't ripe for a re-launch elsewhere.  We are, after all, living in an age of branding genius.

Besides everybody hating on Bobby is a very novel fad, even among the hippest of local "creatives." Witness the tens of people who showed up in Kenner to "protest" Jindal's kickoff speech last month. 
Meanwhile, on the Lake Pontchartrain levee, several dozen protesters gathered with their own message — "Neaux Bobby." They lampooned Jindal as MAD magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman and wore stickers that urged people to "Pray the BJ Away." Members of the Krewe du Vieux's Krewe of SPANK had other amusing "BJ" stickers. Others carried signs critical of his rejection of federal funds under the Affordable Care Act, and chastised him for his positions on solar energy and the film industry. A Facebook group set up to protest the announcement had nearly 3,700 respondents, but there were fewer than 100 protesters on the levee. They chanted "You are the one percent!" and "Jindal gives Christianity a bad name!" 
What a hoot!  Hey, how many of those folks do you reckon voted for Bobby in one or more of his runs for governor.  If they're a good sample of the local electorate, odds are a lot of them did... if they bothered to vote at all that is.

Turnout from Orleans Parish was 27% in 2007 when Bobby won with 54% of the statewid vote in the primary. In New Orleans, he finished a very narrow second to another Louisiana paragon of virtue.

In 2011, it was even harder to plead ignorance about the type of governor Bobby Jindal might turn out to be. Still, I have a hard time remembering any fun Facebook memes or interesting costumes mobilized in protest.  Also nobody voted that year either.  Jindal rolled to reelection with 66% of the statewide vote (again in the primary where there were multiple contestants).  That's a remarkable result even for a guy everybody doesn't hate.  That year, a whopping  24% of our creative and engaged fellow New Orleanians bothered to show up at the polls; most of them to vote for Bobby.

We don't have solid data on the number of "protesters" at the Jindal event who couldn't be bothered to vote against him when they had the chance. We do have indication that at least one voted for him.

(Photo via Gambit)

Ironically, people who voted for Bobby are unable to spell douchebag. The point of this digression, though, is that there's another gullible douchebag born every minute.  And if you can keep enough of them fooled (or at least apathetically disposed toward you) while driving their state into the ground, surely you can fool more of them in places where nobody gives a shit what happens in Louisiana.

As if to demonstrate this point, Stephanie Grace reports from the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

Jindal’s national aspirations may make his own constituents roll their eyes, but at a Monday night town hall meeting at the aptly named Governor’s Inn near the Maine border, he was greeted with open minds — nearly 100 of them.

That so many people would come out to meet him may seem unlikely back home, but here, where early primary politics are something like a state sport, the crowd’s curiosity appeared genuine. So, too, did Jindal, at least according to the reviews from an admittedly self-selected audience.

Unlike Iowa, where Jindal’s overt religiosity is a better fit, New Hampshire is dominated by moderates and independents who are expected to gravitate to candidates like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Still, plenty of voters here are looking for a break from the establishment. Voters I spoke to put Jindal on their short lists alongside candidates like Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. They like that he’s a “fresh face” and a governor with executive experience and specific policy proposals, several told me.

If those sound like Jindal campaign talking points, well, they are. So consider the event a reminder that impressions matter, particularly when voters aren’t so familiar with the details of a politician’s record — and haven’t been living with frustration over Jindal’s steep spending cuts, flip-flop on Common Core, embrace of divisive “religious freedom” measures and use of budget gimmicks to create a false impression that taxes are not going up.

And consider it a reminder that, as unpopular as he is at home, as poorly as he can perform on television, as amateurish and nakedly ambitious as his efforts can seem, Jindal’s got a real talent for campaigning.
That last line is great. For a shitty governor whom everybody hates, that Bobby Jindal is a pretty good politician.  Besides, in the GOP primary, 2016 is actually The Year Of The Shitty Governor.
Previously in American history, eight sitting governors have been elected president—compared to just three sitting senators—so there’s a clear historical reason to look to such candidates as credible top contenders.

But when one looks at the GOP governors this cycle, it’s starting to look more and more like a “most hated governors” club, with men like Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal all polling as losers in their home states—the exact opposite of what governors are supposed to bring to the table as White House candidates.

Not only are they viewed negatively by home-state voters, all would lose their home states to Hillary Clinton in the general. Christie trailed her by 23 percent in New Jersey back in May. Walker trailed her by 12 percent in Wisconsin in April. Even in deep red Louisiana, Clinton lead Jindal 44.5 to 42 percent in a recent poll, just as she had throughout most polls in the 2014 election cycle.

The Walker campaign's coming out party is today.  Here's a TPM article about how and why Everybody Hates Scott in Wisconsin.  It may look familiar to you.
Walker plans to announce his presidential candidacy Monday. He had hoped Republican majorities in the Assembly and Senate would enable his party to finish the budget early and allow him to coast into his announcement. But the budget ended up on his desk a week into the new fiscal year marked by the most "no" votes from GOP lawmakers of any of his three state budgets. One Republican, state Rep. Rob Brooks, described the budget as "crap."

The Legislature's Republican-controlled budget committee handed the governor a string of defeats as it spent months revising the two-year budget.

The committee scrapped his plans to grant the University of Wisconsin System autonomy from state oversight and scaled back a $300 million cut the governor wanted to impose on the system by $50 million. The panel also rejected deep funding cuts for K-12 public schools and the popular SeniorCare prescription drug program as well as a proposal to borrow $220 million for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

The committee slipped a provision into the budget that Walker's office helped draft that would have dismantled Wisconsin's open records law. Walker and Republican leaders did a quick about-face, stripping the provision in the face of a wave of bipartisan outrage.
Even though we're sitting uncomfortably through the Summer of Trumpmania right now, most oddsmaker pundits place Scott Walker alongside Jeb! and Marco Rubio in their big three GOP favorites. There's plenty of time for lots of things to change, of course. But it's worth noting that a candidate with a similar profile to Bobby Jindal's isn't necessarily disqualified just because everybody in his home state happens to hate him right now.

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