With Donald Trump Attacks, Is Bobby Jindal Auditioning to Be the Next Rick Perry?
Like other hapless Republicans before him, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal launched an offensive against billionaire rival Donald Trump this week. On Wednesday, Jindal released a video comparing Trump to Charlie Sheen, the actor who popularized “#winning” after being fired from his successful sitcom, Two and a Half Men. On Thursday, Jindal gave a speech at the National Press Club in which he called Trump “shallow,” “full of bluster,” a “narcissist and an egomaniac,” “not a serious person,” and lacking “intellectual curiosity to even learn.” And he followed up the speech with a video of Trump naming all the things he loves (the video ends with the famous “I love lamp” scene from the movie Anchorman).
The short version of Trump's response to Jindal's barrage was: Who?
“He did not make the debate stage and therefore I have never met him,” Trump said in a statement sent by spokeswoman Hope Hicks. “I only respond to people that register more than 1% in the polls. I never thought he had a chance and I’ve been proven right.”
The part about the polling isn't quite true. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has not polled above one percent in any poll since Trump entered the race in June, but when Graham called Trump a “jackass,” Trump responded by reading the senator's personal cell phone number on live television. According to Jindal, it also isn't true that he and Trump have never met.
Jindal's campaign didn't immediately return a request for comment on when that meeting took place. For the most part, Trump has promptly returned fire on his attackers who happen to be polling well—see: Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul. That's not to say he leaves the candidates at the bottom of the heap alone. For them, Trump relishes in just the kind of dismissive tone he employed on Thursday with Jindal.
First came Rick Perry
Starting in July, the former Texas governor went all in against the front-runner. He defined Trump-ism as a “toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense” and called Trump a “cancer on conservatism.” If going after Trump helped Perry at all, it wasn't enough to get him into the first top-tier Republican debate last month, or improve his fundraising.
In response to Perry's broadsides, Trump went from criticizing how Perry handled the border with Mexico to prematurely labeling him as an also-ran. Trump claimed earlier this month that attacking him is the reason Perry is now polling so low. As he told CNN earlier this month, “One of the things that I'm most honored about is that so far everybody who's attacked me has gone down the tubes. ... You had Perry attacking me, now he's getting out of the race.” (Perry was polling poorly before the attacks and is also, as of this writing, not out of the race.)
One month ago, during a town hall in Marion, Iowa, Jindal told the audience that “it seems like the best way to get any media attention right now is to talk about Donald Trump.” Be careful what you wish for. Attacking Trump is a good way to get noticed by the media, but may not be a winning long-term campaign strategy. “What Jindal hopes to achieve with the speech, I don’t know. He’s learned by now, I assume, that picking a fight with Trump to draw his attention doesn’t lead to any movement in the polls,” the blogger Allahpundit wrote at the conservative website Hot Air.
New York magazine's Jonathan Chait wrote that Jindal seemed upset that Trump has stolen his “niche as the candidate of choice for Republicans who want a bombastic xenophobe in the White House but find Ted Cruz too intellectual.”
Jindal's tagline for his anti-Trump videos is that the summer of silliness is over, implying that Jindal's moment in the spotlight could be nearing. As he told ABC's This Week last month, “After we get past this summer of silliness, the voters are going to look at who’s prepared to do the job. ... I believe I’m the candidate.” Jindal is currently averaging 0.3 percent in the polls, compared to Trump's 29.8 percent. Trump will be in CNN's top-tier debate next week, while Jindal and Perry will be relegated to the undercard event. Though there's a chance that Republican criticism of Trump may be reaching the critical mass necessary to put a dent into the billionaire's poll numbers, it seems more likely that autumn will prove just as unkind to Jindal as late summer did for Perry.