Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal came to Washington this week to make his case for education reform. It was part of his bid to burnish his credentials as the "ideas candidate" as he mulls over a presidential campaign. His proposal shared many similarities with Jeb Bush's educational reforms, but the governor chose to focus on their one big disagreement—over the Common Core educational standards.
Jindal's detailed plan symbolized better than anything why his underdog presidential campaign is so complicated. He's trying to win over both the party's establishment wing and its grassroots base, even though they're at odds with each other over many fundamental issues. As Jindal mulls over a national race, his advisers have urged him to play up his appeal to "Bubba" voters—white, working-class, mostly evangelical Americans. He recently headlined an all-day evangelical prayer rally, and even made a summer cameo on the hit show Duck Dynasty as part of that outreach. But in doing so, Jindal is downplaying his own blue-chip biography as a Rhodes scholar wunderkind who ran the Louisiana health system at age 24 and first ran for governor at 32.
Jindal's risk is that, by trying to appeal to everyone, he'll be left out of the mix entirely. He's running as a reform-oriented conservative in a field that's likely to include Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker—all of whom have laid claim to that mantle. Yet there's not much space left to compete for evangelical support, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania already engaging in outreach to those communities.