DES MOINES, Iowa — In an exclusive interview here after a town hall event last Thursday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal laid out why he’s catching fire in Iowa.
Jindal is more than halfway through doing what’s become known as the “Full Grassley”—named for Iowa’s senior Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)—in which candidates tour all of Iowa’s 99 counties ahead of the crucial upcoming Iowa caucuses just 90 days away in February.
At every one of his town halls, Jindal is always the last person to leave. That was the case at this town hall as well, as he took questions and signed autographs and posed for pictures with every single person who wanted them. Jindal said:
We’ve done 53 counties, we’ve done over a hundred events—we’ve obviously been here in Des Moines a lot—and we’ve done certain counties multiple times. We’ve done over a hundred events. Some of these town halls go as long as three hours, until the last person gets to ask their last question. I do that for a couple of reasons. First off, I certainly enjoy telling folks what I’m going to do as president, but I also enjoy hearing and learning from them. At every one of these, you hear different questions and different perspectives. It’s one thing to give a speech, it’s one thing to run a TV ad. I think it’s an entirely different thing to look people in the face—whether you agree with them or not—and be able to answer their questions.
Jindal said candidates need to earn voters’ support, not just expect it after giving speeches and running television ads. The candidate went on to say:
I think you have got to earn people’s support in these early states. We’re earning it on the ground—nobody is going to out-work us. We’re going to every county. That’s why we’re building a movement. We’re seeing bigger and bigger crowds all over the state, and we’re seeing more and more people come out to join us. Look, I think Hillary is making a mistake campaigning in a bubble. I think you got to get out and meet the people you want to serve. I think you learn a lot by doing that. This is the key to our success. This is the reason we’re doing so well here in Iowa.
In the exclusive interview, Jindal also compared the U.S. Senators competing against him to President Barack Obama. Jindal replied when asked if he thinks that having the worst voting attendance record in the U.S. Senate is going to hurt Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL):
I think the voters get to decide what they think is relevant. They’ll get to decide whether they think that’s an important issue for them or not. For me, I think in general, we’ve got—not just talking about Sen. Rubio but all of the senators—we’ve got a first term senator in the White House. I’m biased towards governors. I think they’ve run things before. I think these senators give great speeches. Let’s elect somebody who’s run something. We’ve got a president who was a senator who gives great speeches. Let’s elect a governor who’s actually got something done.
Jindal also told Breitbart News he doesn’t think former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush should drop out of the race, after an abysmal performance on the campaign trail as of late, because he’d rather beat Bush at the polls. Since this interview was conducted, Jindal has surged past Bush in Iowa and is now polling ahead of the once-juggernaut candidate, according to recent polling data from Public Policy Polling that came out on Monday.
Jindal said when asked if he thinks Bush should drop out:
It’s not for me to decide for anybody to get in or out—I’m the best qualified candidate. I want voters to vote for me. Look, this is the same mistake that—whenever, I don’t like when the RNC decides this one should get out or not. Let the voters decide. It’s not for me to decide. The voters get to decide. Now, my argument is I’m better qualified than Governor Bush and all of the other candidates. I’m the only that has cut spending. I’m the one that’s took on Planned Parenthood. We’ve actually implemented conservative principles. I think this thing—the same mistake the establishment makes, they get to decide who’s in or out. Voters get to decide that.
As for debate structure, Jindal told Breitbart News that he believes the Republican National Committee (RNC) has failed to get control of the process. He said:
Look, the RNC claimed they were going to take control of this process—they obviously didn’t do that. You’re right—the liberal moderators, why don’t we just give them a spot at the podium and let them debate as well. You saw in my debate, and you heard me talk about it today, all they want to do is criticize Republicans—they criticized me for an hour for wanting to cut taxes—yet they won’t ask Bernie Sanders and they won’t ask Hillary Clinton how they’re going to pay for all this socialism. Look, I don’t think as Republicans we’re afraid of tough questions—we’re happy to defend our views. At the very least the media needs to be just as tough on the Democrats. They need to ask them the same tough questions and secondly, they need to stop trying to pit Republicans against each other. Ask them hard, policy-based questions.
Jindal also said the GOP is supposed to support free market principles and that the party’s presidential primary debates should reflect those principles.
“I think the RNC, look I think the reality is this is the mistake that happens when you try to clear the field and you try to limit debates,” Jindal said. “We’re the party that’s for free markets, right? Why not have as many debates and have as many people participate as possible? Let candidates—I think that’s better for our candidates. I think this whole top down control, this top down approach hasn’t worked. I think the best way to fix it is to let an open, free market approach to debates work. Let the candidates go to whatever debates they want, and let whoever wants to host a debate host a debate. Candidates don’t have to go; if they don’t want to show up they don’t have to show up. I’m happy to debate anybody, anywhere, any time. We’re the free market party, let’s take a free market approach to debates.”