Jindal Gearing Up for Potential 2016 Campaign

by Eliana Johnson
The Louisiana governor won’t say if he’s running, but he’s making all the right moves.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s latest moves indicate he is gearing up for a presidential bid.

Though Jindal skewered Mitt Romney just a week after the 2012 election, he’s now turning to the Romney camp in an effort to beef up his fundraising operation. Sources say he is looking to tap Romney’s vast donor network and has asked Romney’s finance director, Spencer Zwick, for an assist with introductions to some of the Romney campaign’s top givers.

A number of the GOP’s likely presidential candidates, including Rand Paul, are looking to Zwick to make these introductions. That’s in part a rite of passage – presidential contenders always want access to the fundraising list compiled by the previous candidate – and in part because the Romney team, which opted out of the public-financing system, was able to raise over $1 billion, an unprecedented amount for a GOP candidate. Romney and Zwick’s stable of top-dollar donors also has an especially loyal reputation relative to that of other nominees from both parties.

Jindal has said publicly he doesn’t know whether he’ll run in 2016, but at the end of 2013 he announced the creation of a nonprofit group, America Next, that will help him bolster his credentials as a thought leader within the Republican party ahead of the 2016 election. As he serves out his second term as governor, which ends in January 2016, it can also serve as something of a shadow campaign organization.

Thus far, the governor has staffed it like one. Though America Next will churn out conservative policy proposals, Jindal’s first organizational hire was Jill Neunaber, who ran the Romney campaign in Iowa during the general election and, during the primaries, served as deputy campaign manager in New Hampshire. Last month, he brought on a more traditional choice for a policy organization: former Jim DeMint staffer and Heritage Foundation scholar Chris Jacobs.

At the annual meeting of the Republican Governor’s Association earlier this week, Jindal injected himself back into the national conversation, surfacing in the nation’s capital with dramatic flair. Emerging from a White House meeting with President Obama, he got just a few steps down the driveway before calling the president’s failure to approve the Keystone pipeline tantamount to “waving the white flag of surrender” and assailing him for creating a “minimum-wage economy.”  

RGA chairman Chris Christie’s absence from the organization’s news conference on Monday also allowed Jindal, the RGA’s vice chairman, to commandeer the event. He took a subtle jab at Christie, his potential 2016 rival and the man who in 2012 beat him out for this year’s RGA chairmanship. The RGA is “more important than just any one governor,” Jindal said.

“It’s not about the chairman,” he continued. “It wasn’t about the chairman when I was chairman last year. It’s not about the chairman this year.” (Jindal served as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2013, overseeing the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.)

— Eliana Johnson is media editor of National Review Online.