Bobby Jindal's Rebranding Effort Hits Snag

In the wake of the 2012 election, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal undertook what amounted to a massive personal rebranding effort, with the likely purpose of elbowing his way into the 2016 election discussion. Within a week's time, he was hotly contesting Mitt Romney's theory of his loss, and telling anyone who would listen that he "absolutely rejected" Romney's idea that President Barack Obama was reelected because he offered certain voters "gifts." In the months to come, Jindal would develop his own theme, telling groups of Republicans that they needed to stop being the "stupid party":

“It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments -- enough of that,” Jindal told Politico. “It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

In this regard, Jindal was basically echoing Karl Rove's criticism of candidates like Todd Akin, whose absurdist theories of female physiology played a big role in denying the GOP a Senate pick-up in Missouri.

So, how is the launch of Jindal Version 2.0 going these days? Not well, actually! Here's Lauren McGaughy reporting for the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Gov. Bobby Jindal's approval rating dropped from 51 percent in October to just under 38 percent in March due to voter dissatisfaction with state fiscal and education policies, according to a poll released Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and U.S. Sen. David Vitter -- both possible candidates for Jindal's job in 2015 -- had approval ratings near 60 percent.

The poll, conducted by Southern Media & Opinion Research with funding from conservative businessman Lane Grigsby, showed President Barack Obama is currently more popular than Jindal in the state, eking ahead of the governor five points.

And is there anything in particular that's driving down Jindal's approvals? According to a press release from the polling firm, "a number of issues contributed to Jindal's low performance (in the poll), including state cuts to higher education and health care, plans to privatize the charity hospital system and the governor's proposed state tax overhaul."

Ah, yes, that "proposed state tax overhaul!" We know it well. Jindal's big, bright policy idea, as you may know, is to eliminate Louisiana's state income tax while jacking up its sales tax, a move that would end up generating less revenue overall. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, weighing in on the matter, notes that Jindal's plan would be a de facto tax increase on the "bottom 80 percent of Louisianans in the income distribution," while providing the top 1 percent with "an average tax cut of $25,423, or 2.3 percent of their income."

Given the fact that this plan would make a large majority of Louisianans poorer in exchange for fewer services in an already low-service state, it's barely a surprise at all that Jindal is tanking in the polls.

This sort of goes to show the limitations of a "rebranding" effort that places a high emphasis on not saying wild-eyed nonsense about rape out loud in front of reporters. Sure, the politicians who do that stuff are very likely to receive demerits from the voters. But successfully clearing the low bar of not being like Todd Akin in public isn't actually something that earns you extra credit. Consequently, it cannot serve as a pillar in a renewal effort. Meanwhile, when you publicly vow to enact terrible tax plans, people notice, and they react badly.

A few weeks ago, in response to the RNC releasing its "autopsy" of the 2012 election season, the folks at NBC News' First Read wondered, "What if the policies are also contributing to the GOP’s brand problems?" Well, Jindal's sinking poll numbers provide that answer.

UPDATE: Writing at The Lens, Tyler Bridges points out that Jindal is alone, holding the bag on this tax plan:

Jindal is under increasing fire on the right from a group of conservative legislators known as Fiscal Hawks who say he plays shell games with how the state spends its money.

Jindal’s plan to revamp the state’s tax system – which he said would be his biggest priority this session – remains barely alive after attacks from the left, the center and the right.

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