Bobby Jindal's exit: Winnowing works

The struggles of a former Rhodes scholar and governor who once seemed a serious contender reveal important aspects of the 2016 race.

John Raoux/AP
Republican presidential candidate Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

Bobby Jindal had no choice. He was running out of money and time and remained below 1 percent in the polls. So on Nov. 17, the Louisiana governor faced facts and ended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I’ve come to the realization that this is not my time,” Governor Jindal said when announcing the move during a Fox News appearance.

No, it isn’t. But Jindal’s withdrawal is also about more than him. The struggles of a former Rhodes scholar who once seemed a serious contender reveal some important aspects of the 2016 race.

1. Winnowing works. Worried that the current rugby scrum of GOP candidates will persist deep into primary season, threatening a deadlocked national convention? Don’t be. Three candidates who probably thought they had a chance to win – Jindal, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker – are now gone. At least four others – Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, and Chris Christie – are clearly lagging far behind the leaders.

Chances are that only five Republican candidates will remain following the South Carolina primary on Feb. 20, 2016. Maybe three of the Donald Trump/Ben Carson/Marco Rubio/Ted Cruz/Jeb Bush quintet will make it through March.

That’s important because if the candidates with no chance clear out, it clarifies the race and greatly increases the possibility of a nominee emerging by April 1, or even earlier, points out political scientist Jonathan Bernstein. That will allow the nominee plenty of time to turn and engage with likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

2. It's a bad time to be a governor. At the start of the cycle, GOP multiterm governors looked golden. They had executive experience and could credibly package themselves as outsiders, not part of Washington’s dysfunction.

But that’s not how things have worked out. The dropouts so far have all been governors. The only governor among the frontrunners, Jeb Bush, is struggling. Instead, it’s complete political novices and freshman senators who are on top of the GOP leader board.

“Together, the dropouts underscore just how upside-down this presidential race has become,” write Caitlin Huey-Burns and Rebecca Berg of RealClearPolitics.

3. Losing hurts. Running for president isn’t always a good career move. Sure, you get national exposure via media coverage and debates, if nothing else. But it’s possible that your reputation goes down, not up.

Look at Mr. Perry. The former Texas governor never really recovered from the “oops” debate moment in 2011 when he forgot the federal agencies he was proposing to eliminate. This year, Martin O’Malley’s low poll numbers aren’t increasing his VP chances.

Bobby Jindal was once a rising Republican star. He may be again. But his campaign veered from one approach to another, and at this point he might count himself fortunate to make a Cabinet short-list if the GOP wins the 2016 race.

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