Jindal Expected to Enter Fray Near the Bottom of the Pile

NYT FDManny Fernandez 6/24/2015

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Good Wednesday morning from Washington, where even agreements don’t guarantee the end of the long battle over the trade bill. Though the nation’s attention still falls on the shooting in Charleston, S.C., the campaign focus pulls to Louisiana where Gov. Bobby Jindal is likely to make an announcement that many before him have already made.

Days after landing near the bottom of a nationwide poll of Republican primary voters, Mr. Jindal is expected on Wednesday to announce that he is running for president, joining the crowded field of Republican contenders in what even his supporters call a long-shot candidacy.

Mr. Jindal, 44, was elected as the nation’s first Indian-American governor in 2007 and quickly earned a reputation as a technocrat and a darling of Christian conservatives. Mr. Jindal, who was raised by Hindu parents and converted to Roman Catholicism, has since watched his approval ratings plummet. Criticized for focusing on laying the groundwork for his presidential run instead of running the state, Mr. Jindal lately has been almost as unpopular with some Republicans as he has been with Democrats.

“I don’t think anybody in Louisiana thinks he can win,” said Roy Fletcher, a Republican political consultant in Baton Rouge who was deputy campaign manager for John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000.

His low approval ratings are based in part on his handling of the state’s budget and its $1.6 billion shortfall. Lawmakers on both sides publicly denounced, but ultimately approved, the governor’s complex tax credit plan that helped close the budget gap. Republicans called the plan “nonsense.”

At his announcement on Wednesday, Mr. Jindal is likely to embrace and appeal to his strongest base: social conservatives and evangelical Christians. Mr. Jindal is an outspoken proponent of “religious liberty,” issuing an executive order recently to protect those who, on religious grounds, do not support same-sex marriage. He issued the order after a similar bill died in the Legislature.

“It is crazy to underestimate his doggedness or his political skills,” said Quin Hillyer, a conservative columnist and Louisiana native.