DUBUQUE, Iowa — Republican presidential hopeful Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal really likes Iowa.
Jindal’s affinity for Iowa may be an affection of necessity. According to a Monmouth University poll released Monday, Jindal remains mired at around 2 percent support among Republican voters nationwide. Fortunately for him, a SuperPAC supporting him is helping Iowans like him back.
A respectable showing in the nation’s first nominating contest may be the only hope for a Jindal candidacy to earn a shot at the White House. He thinks the state is so important to his chances of winning his party’s nomination that he’s been to the Hawkeye State three times since his June 24 official announcement. Even in the year before he announced a run for the presidency, Jindal visited Iowa a dozen times.
When asked what would be an acceptable showing for him in the Iowa caucuses, Jindal was blunt: “I want to win.”
There is no bronze or silver for him in Iowa. Jindal is going for the gold.
There is no bronze or silver for him in Iowa. Jindal is going for the gold. He’s vowed to be back time and time again until the first-in-the-nation caucuses in February.
He’s being helped by television ads that have run all over Iowa, sponsored by a Jindal-supporting SuperPAC called “Believe Again.” They already seem to have garnered him at least one new recruit. An area manufacturing representative named Mike Lambert said the ads piqued his interest enough that he drove 40 miles (roundtrip) early last Saturday morning from the town of Peosta to attend a Jindal event in Dubuque.
There, Jindal impressed him enough that Lambert again made the round trip from Peosta for another Dubuque event Monday night.
“We are so lucky here in Iowa to be able to enjoy all the candidates as they go through and I’m really trying to find my candidate,” Lambert said after the second event.
He thinks he has. Asked if the caucuses were held today, would he caucus for Bobby Jindal: “Yes I would.”
Jindal obviously is hoping that supportive ads combined with frequent visits will secure him plenty of other supporters like Lambert. Jindal’s most recent northeastern Iowa odysses began early last Saturday morning with a meet-and-greet at Dubuque’s Courtside Sports Bar.
For the petite, middle-aged Lynne Kirchoff, a bartender at the popular Courtside Sports Bar, the job of hosting Jindal and his staffers fell to her. Kirchoff opened up at 7:30 a.m. and let in half a dozen Jindal volunteers. They set out coffee and jelly-filled doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts on a folding table, and spread around campaign literature and sign-in sheets.
The public gathering was to start at 9 a.m., but some people showed up early, including Tom Weidemann, who sported a hunting cap and a “Don’t Tread on Me” NRA T-shirt. A self-described “common laborer” from Dubuque, Weidemann grabbed a bloody mary cocktail at 8:30 a.m. and said Dubuque is known as a hard-working, hard-playing, hard-politics town.
“I like a nice firm, conservative mind,” said one attendee. “[Jindal] seems to have one.”
Weidemann, not surprisingly, is focused on Jindal’s support of the Second Amendment. “It’s one of our major amendments that protect all the other ones,” he said. But Weidemann said he also cares about Jindal’s “stand on taxes, tax relief, and immigration.”
“I like a nice firm, conservative mind. He seems to have one,” he said.
The bar quickly filled, mostly with seniors, plus a sprinkling of younger people. Eventually, more than 80 people arrived to hear Jindal, the first Indian-American to seek the presidency under a major party’s banner. His parents came to the U.S. in 1971 from Punjab, India, about six months before he was born.
Jindal wore a blue shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. With him were his staff, security, and his wife, Supriya, who stood in the wings. Introduced by local GOP chairman Jennifer Smith, Jindal quickly broke into his standard 20-minute stump speech and took a few questions.
Introducing his wife, Jindal chortled, “My wife and I were high school sweethearts. She was mine, but I was not my wife’s at first,” which drew loud laughter.
The candidate was calm, almost methodical, when he shifted to taking swipes at Hillary Clinton and President Obama.
“Hillary Clinton is Obama’s apprentice in waiting,” he said, perhaps taking a word from Donald Trump’s jargon. “The biggest lie Bill Clinton ever told was not about Monica, it was that the era of big government was over.”
As Jindal wrapped up the first stop of the day, he drew a standing ovation from the crowd, including Anita Hulsizer, who abandoned her walker cane to rise to her feet. Hulsizer, a retired home-health care provider from Dubuque, said she was impressed by him but not yet sure of her first choice for president.
“I appreciate his Christianity that he is vocal on,” she said. “I appreciate everything he has said. His input on taking care of the borders, [that those who] come in need to come in legally. I’m against Common Core, and he is too. We should have the right to decide what our children learn in our schools here. There are so many things he has said that I appreciate.”
Still, she said she wants to hear from other candidates before she commits. Iowans aren’t sold quickly and Jindal knows that.In an interview with LifeZette after the event, the Louisiana governor said he was pleased that 80-plus people came to hear him early on a Saturday.
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“Wasn’t that great?” he said. “I mean, they have so many other places they could be. What that tells you is that people absolutely share our urgency about how important this election is. And what I heard talking one-on-one with folks is that we are on the path to socialism. The president is trying to change the American dream into the European nightmare.”
Iowa, he said, “is extremely important.” After Dubuque, he was off to Cedar Rapids, then to an event in Marion with Sen. Charles Grassley. And it is clear he will back, again and again.
This story has been updated as of July 14, 2015.