Don’t count out Bobby Jindal.
The Louisiana governor said recent polls showing him neck-and-neck with top-tier candidates such as Jeb Bush is a result of his ground game in Iowa — visiting all 99 counties before February’s Iowa Caucus.
In a phone interview Friday afternoon with the Iowa State Daily, Jindal said his campaign deliberately made Iowa a focus, thus many events with caucus-goers is resulting in growing support statewide.
“One of the things that sets our events apart is that we wait until the last person gets to ask the last question, often times as long as three hours,” Jindal said. “We are seeing an increase in the polls; we’re now in the top five.”
Jindal — the former two-term congressman turned two-term governor — was once seen as a rising star in the GOP, even delivering the response to President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union.
But since launching his 2016 campaign in July, the first Indian-American to run for the nation’s highest office has struggled to break 1 or 2 percent in national polls.
He has been stuck in the lower-tier debates, but the policy work side of Jindal had made him stand out among those on stage.
In last Tuesday’s FOX Business Republican debate, Jindal went after fellow Republican Chris Christie for his economic record as governor of New Jersey. Christie instead opted to attack Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton throughout the debate.
“I want it to be an actual debate,” Jindal said. “I know some people would like this to just be sing ‘Kumbaya,’ but I think it needs to be a real debate about the real issues. You can give one liners about Hillary Clinton — and I think we all agree we don’t want her to be president — but the reality is, I think it’s important that we elect a Republican to cut the size of government.”
Jindal said he “doesn’t blame” Christie for not defending his record, and that he is the only candidate running who has actually cut the size of government.
“If they haven’t done it in their states, why should we expect them to do it in D.C. when we send them there?” Jindal asked. “It only gets tougher, not easier. It’s not personal; it’s not about New Jersey vs. Louisiana or me vs. [Christie]. It’s really about are you going to shrink the size of government or not.”
The GOP hopeful also talked about his stance on higher education, why younger voters who are often more accepting on social issues should consider a socially conservative candidate and his elevator pitch on why he’s best for students.
Jindal has been an outspoken opponent of Common Core — standards established for K-12 schools nationwide — but has been relatively quiet on higher education policy.
Jindal said the student debt problem translates into a problem for the economy — as those crippled with debt after college are discouraged from starting a family or buying their first home.
He said government should first end their “monopoly” on student loans and said if students are able to get loans from places such as banks or credit unions, competition in the private market will allow students to get loans at lower interest rates.
He said he would also “break up the accreditation monopoly.”
"I don’t think there is enough competition, in part because the Department of Education has limited competition,” Jindal said. “I think more competition [would help].”
For example, Jindal said students should be able to earn credit for things such as military service, and mentioned being able to earn more credits online or easily transfer credits between institutions.
He also said stagnant wages contributes to the problem, and with a high unemployment rate among teens, comes a big problem as tuition continues to rise.
While Jindal said he would like to see the federal government play a smaller role in education, he did mention state-level programs, including one in Louisiana that allows the state to pay for tuition if students achieve a certain GPA and ACT score.
As for free tuition, which is being proposed by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, Jindal said it sounds “pleasing,” but in reality, “nothing is free.”
“I’m proud to be in a party that’s both socially and fiscally conservative,” Jindal said. “The issue is going to be how do we treat people we disagree with? I’ve argued that I’m for treating people with respect whether we agree with them or not. I’m not for discrimination against anybody. But I think in the presidential debate, you’ve got to find a candidate you agree with on most issues and who you think will do the best job moving our county forward.”
Jindal said it is likely the next Republican candidate will be both pro-life and for traditional marriage, and that it is unlikely voters will find a candidate they agree with on 100 percent of the issues.
“I hope students, whether they agree with me 100 percent of the time or not, will look at my record and hear my ideas,” Jindal said. “I think you’ve got to look for someone, even though you don’t agree with them on everything, that treats everyone with respect and with compassion.”
Elevator pitch for students
“This is the most important election of our lifetime,” Jindal said. “I think I’m the most qualified to be the next president for two reasons. One, I’ve got the proven results; I’m the only one who has cut government spending and grown the economy. Second, I’m one who will go to D.C. and fight for all of us. I’m going to fight the establishment in both the Democratic and Republican parties to make sure our best days are still ahead of us," he said.
Jindal continued, adding that current students have a real stake in the 2016 election.
“Our students have the most at stake in this election, and whoever they vote for, I hope they will participate and get involved,” Jindal added. “I’ve asked them to support us because I want them to believe in America again.”
Jindal has been to 58 of the 99 counties in the state and said his tour will continue leading up to the caucus — scheduled for Feb. 1.
His tour will include a stop in Ames on Thursday for a town hall meeting at 11:30 a.m. in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union.
“We’re going to continue to invest time on the ground, continue to meet with the voters in Iowa,” Jindal said. “There’s going be a movement there, and I’m pleased to see bigger and bigger crowds at our events, and I’m pleased to see the movement in polls. I don’t think there’s any substitute to talk to the voters directly.”