Gov. Bobby Jindal announces candidacy for President to cheering crowd

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Gov. Bobby Jindal announced his candidacy for president this afternoon at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. - CHARLES CODY SILER
  • Gov. Bobby Jindal announced his candidacy for president this afternoon at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.

As expected, Gov. Bobby Jindal today announced he would seek the Republican Party's nomination for President in the 2016 election. His campaign made it official this morning, hours before Jindal was set to make the formal announcement at Kenner's Pontchartrain Center.

Though the "Geaux Bobby" logo announcement featured the words "New Orleans" and a silhouette of the city's skyline, Jindal actually made his announcement to a crowd of about 1,500 at the Pontchartrain Center, about a 25-minute drive from downtown New Orleans, in a speech carried live on Fox News and C-SPAN3. 

A crowd that organizers estimated at 1,500 picked up "Geaux Bobby" signs and American flags at the door, massing in front of a giant American flag in front of which the candidate would speak. (Some who had RSVP'd for the event reported getting cancellation notices just hours before Jindal was set to speak.) In the crowd: Tea Party stalwarts state Rep. Lenar Whitney, R-Houma and Col. Rob Maness, as well as Stephen Waguespack, head of the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry.

The soundtrack was heavy on lite-country patriotic Americana and Louisiana originals, including Wayne Toups & Zydecajun's "Johnnie Can't Dance," Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried," Montgomery Gentry's "Where I Come From,"  Buckwheat Zydeco's "Hey, Good Lookin," and John Mellencamp's "This Is Our Country." 

Meanwhile, on the Lake Pontchartrain levee, several dozen protesters gathered with their own message — "Neaux Bobby." They lampooned Jindal as MAD magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman and wore stickers that urged people to "Pray the BJ Away." Members of the Krewe du Vieux's Krewe of SPANK had other amusing "BJ" stickers. Others carried signs critical of his rejection of federal funds under the Affordable Care Act, and chastised him for his positions on solar energy and the film industry. A Facebook group set up to protest the announcement had nearly 3,700 respondents, but there were fewer than 100 protesters on the levee. They chanted "You are the one percent!" and "Jindal gives Christianity a bad name!"

Stickers passed out at the protest outside Gov. Bobby Jindal's presidential campaign announcement.
  • Stickers passed out at the protest outside Gov. Bobby Jindal's presidential campaign announcement.

The Rev. Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum, one of Jindal's closest allies in the state, gave the invocation. After the Pledge of Allegiance and The Star-Spangled Banner, former New Orleans Saints great Archie Manning and former Gov. Mike Foster provided a welcome and words of praise for Jindal on tape. "Bobby was definitely a game-changer for Louisiana," Manning said.

Supriya Jindal said she admired her husband not just because he's "smart" or "good-lookin'," but that's he's absolutely "fearless." She cited his leadership after Hurricane Katrina and what she reiterated was his "fearlessness" in cutting taxes.

Jindal took the stage to Garth Brooks' "Callin' Baton Rouge" and described what he saw as a downtrodden Louisiana when he took office in 2007, less than two years after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods.  "We had to believe in Louisiana again, and that's exactly what we did," Jindal said. He cited reforming the state ethics laws, and said "I'm guilty as charged and the state is better off today" in response to "the big government crowd." He criticized Sen. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, and said Democrats define success in terms of prosperity in government, while Republicans define success in terms of prosperity in people.

"There are a lot of great talkers running for president," Jindal said, " ... The guy in the White House is a great talker. We've had plenty of great talkers. It's time for a doer." He advocated shrinking the federal budget, "securing our borders," and got his biggest cheers when he referred to "repealing Obamacare."

"I will never lead from behind," he pledged. "I know some people believe I talk about my faith too much. But I will not be silenced!" Jindal added, getting an ovation from the crowd. "I will not be silenced to meet 'their' expectations of political correctness!" He also got huge cheers for saying immigrants needed "to learn English, roll up your sleeves and get to work."

After his speech, Jindal gave a satellite interview to Fox News' Sean Hannity and then headed for Louis Armstrong/New Orleans International Airport to fly to New Hampshire.

A protester outside Gov. Bobby Jindal's presidential campaign announcement in Kenner.
  • A protester outside Gov. Bobby Jindal's presidential campaign announcement in Kenner.

The Louisiana Democratic Party (LDP) wasted no time lambasting the governor's ambitions.

"As a late entrant to an extraordinarily crowded field, Jindal carries the baggage of his dismal record of failure as governor and polling numbers hovering in the low 0% range," the LDP wrote in a press release. "The vanity campaign he formally kicked off in Kenner can be expected to have no actual impact on the 2016 race for president."

In a statement, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, said: “Governor Jindal has failed Louisiana in every way possible, and there’s no reason to believe he will have any more success as a candidate than he did as governor. His record of failure disqualifies him from higher office right out of the gate, and his pattern of divisiveness and cynical, partisan manipulation is likely to make for a short campaign.”

Jindal joins a field of GOP contenders that includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Dr. Ben Carson; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; businesswoman Carly Fiorina; South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; former New York Gov. George Pataki; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; and businessman/TV personality Donald Trump. 

The first Republican primary debate will be held Thursday, Aug. 6 at 8 p.m. Central time in Cleveland and broadcast on Fox News. Only the top 10 candidates in recent polls will be included. At this point, that would exclude Jindal. A secondary forum for the other candidates will be held at 1 p.m. that day. On Wed. Sept. 16, CNN will air another debate from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. This one, according to the Republican National Committee, also will split the candidates into two groups. 

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