Jindal Says He's Not Running in 2012, But...

Big news in the 2012 presidential race last week: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal isn't running for president. That reminds me of a similar pledge from ...
by | December 15, 2008
 

Governorjindal Big news in the 2012 presidential race last week: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal isn't running for president.

That reminds me of a similar pledge from another Southern governor:

Flying low over the rice fields of the Arkansas delta, fresh off campaign stops at a shoe factory and a one-room country church, Gov. Bill Clinton (D) muses: "I may have blown my timing."

He is not talking about the trial of running for a fifth term in a year when voters seem fed up with politicians. He is talking about the tribulation of not running for president in 1992.

Clinton promised his constituents he would serve a full four-year term when he announced for reelection eight months ago. Back then, President Bush's approval ratings were in the stratosphere, and 1992 seemed like a good year for a young presidential hopeful to hang tight in a holding pattern.

That article appeared in the October 26, 1990 Washington Post. The rest, of course, is history.

In truth, there are few promises that are easier to break than a pledge not to seek the presidency. Your country needed you. Your party asked you. The nation's challenges were too great to stay on the sidelines. There are a thousand noble-sounding ways to go back on your word.

In fact, Jindal didn't even give his word. From the Associated Press story:

Jindal, who appeared at a news conference to back Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, was asked if he was interested in being president.

"No," he replied.

Jindal's trip to Iowa last month fueled speculation that he was laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign, and he did not rule out changing his mind over the next few years.

The most interesting piece of news from that press conference was when Jindal said he's seeking reelection in 2011. That, more than some vague expression of disinterest, is an indication that Jindal isn't running for president. Here's what Mike Memoli wrote a few weeks ago:

Jindal can very easily bury himself in the work of his office, even as he jets off to Des Moines and Manchester when the occasion warrants. But he will face a tough decision in 2011, when he must decide simultaneously whether to run for re-election at the same time he'd have to begin the heavy lifting of a presidential campaign. Could he contest his re-election and a straw poll at the same time? Does he bet his future on 2012 and forsake another term, or does he take the chance that 2016 might be a better opportunity?

Just to add to that, there were 12 Republican presidential debates between May and October of 2007 -- before Louisiana held its gubernatorial election in November. As much as everyone would love for the process to get shorter in 2012, that's not likely to happen.

Starting his presidential bid late isn't really an option, as Wes Clark found out in 2004 and Fred Thompson found out this year. Beginning a presidential bid in November 2011 is a virtual impossibility.

As a result, if Jindal sought reelection as governor and sought the Republican presidential nomination simultaneously, he'd either have to abandon his home state repeatedly (which, even if he's still popular back home, might not sit well during his reelection campaign) or he'd have to miss key events on the presidential campaign trail.

So, if Jindal does seek reelection that probably means he can't run for president. At a minimum, it would make running for president much more difficult.

Of course, Jindal could always change his mind about seeking reelection if a presidential bid starts to look promising. If anything, changing your mind on reelection is even easier than changing your mind about running for president.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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