Bobby Jindal, the nation’s first Indian-American governor, entered the 2016 GOP presidential nomination race Wednesday, casting himself as an outsider and a turnaround artist, while vowing to pursue a bold conservative agenda that will challenge the status quo in Washington.
The two-term Louisiana governor and former congressman said he has had success cutting the size and scope of the state government and could do the same on the national level.
“The guy in the White House today is a great talker, and we have a bunch of great talkers running for president,” Mr. Jindal said. “We’ve had enough of talkers, it’s time for a doer.”
“I’m not running for president to be somebody, I’m running for president to do something,” he said.
Polls show the 44-year-old is running at the back of the pack — both nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first stops on the nomination calendar.
This poses an early challenge for Mr. Jindal, who must be among the top 10 candidates in the polls in order to take part in the first GOP-sanctioned debate that is schedule to take place in August in Ohio.
Republican observers say Mr. Jindal could be the brightest candidate in the field, but add that the jury is out on whether he can catch fire in the crowded field of contenders.
Speaking at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, Louisiana, Mr. Jindal on Wednesday touted his record as governor, noting that he helped establish charter schools in nearby New Orleans and expand school choice options in the state.
He said his administration has cut spending, reduced the size of the state’s workforce and helped foster a more job-friendly economic climate.
“Every Republican will say they are for school choice, shrinking government, cutting the government workforce, and getting rid of Common Core,” he said, referring to a controversial education program. “But talk is cheap. Talk is just talk. I haven’t just talked about doing these things, I’ve actually done these things.”
Mr. Jindal also attacked former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the front-runners for the Democratic and Republican nominations, respectively.
“You’ve heard Jeb Bush say that we need to be willing to lose the primary in order to win the general election. Let me translate that for you, I’m going to translate that from political-speak into plain English. He is saying that we need to hide our conservative ideals. But the truth is, if we go down that road again, we will lose again,” Mr. Jindal said. “Let’s do something new, let’s endorse our own principles for a change and boldly speak the truth without fear.”
He said Mrs. Clinton does not respect religious liberty. “I’m going to say this slowly so that even Hillary Clinton can understand it. America did not create religious liberty, religious liberty created the United States of America,” he said.
Mr. Jindal pledged to secure the nation’s borders, repeal and replace Obamacare, cut federal spending and “rebuild America’s defenses and restore our standing on the world’s stage.”
He called for term limits on members of Congress, and said he would “reform” Social Security and Medicare and reduce the debt.
“Today’s Republican Party in Washington has been beaten into submission and is increasingly afraid to speak the truth. It’s time to say what everyone is thinking — the emperors in Washington are not wearing any clothes,” he said. “In case it’s not clear by now, I’m running for president without permission from headquarters in Washington, D.C. But rest assured — I’m tanned, rested, and ready for this fight.”
Matthew A. Schlapp, head of the American Conservative Union, said Mr. Jindal has an advantage in being a governor, running as a Washington outsider and as a “legitimate health care expert.”
“The challenges he faces is that he decided to run in 2016 when the field is populated by a lot of fantastic candidates,” Mr. Schlapp said. “He is not the only governor. There are a lot of governors. He is not the only cultural conservative. There are at least a handful of others that are going to focus on those issues. And he is not the only young fresh candidate.”
Democrats, meanwhile, said that Louisiana has suffered on Mr. Jindal’s watch.
“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,” said state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party. “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.”
Mr. Jindal was appointed at the age of 24 to the be secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. He also served as a top adviser to the secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.
He lost his first bid for governor in 2003 — though a year later he captured a seat in the U.S. House, and won re-election in 2006, representing the New Orleans suburbs where he announced his candidacy Wednesday.
Recent surveys in Louisiana found that Mr. Jindal’s job approval is low and that he would lose in a hypothetical general election matchup against Mrs. Clinton.