Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered a solid, if less than spectacular, performance in the “Happy Hour” undercard debate Thursday afternoon, political scientist Josh Stockley said.
“I’d probably place him right in the middle along with Rick Santorum,” said Stockley of the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s.
Jindal was among the seven second-tier candidates relegated to the early stage by poll numbers. The leading 10 candidates had a primetime spot on Fox.
“There are two goals in a debate — get through it without making a major mistake and then try to distinguish yourself from the other candidates,” Stockley said. “I thought Gov. Jindal got through without making a mistake, but I’m not sure he distinguished himself from the other candidates on the stage.”
Candidates on the undercard must break through to the main stage soon for their campaigns to survive, Stockley said.
“I don’t think you have a prayer unless you can get into the Top 10 in the next two months,” he said. “All of these seven, including Gov. Jindal, must make a move.
“You have to remember that this undercard was broadcast at 4 p.m. when most people were at work or on their way home from work. So these candidates have to ask themselves, ‘Was anybody watching?’”
Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said he only heard snippets of the debate, but Cross said he believes Jindal and the lower tier candidates have more time to break through than conventional wisdom suggests.
“The change in campaign finance laws with Super PACS means candidates can extend their shelf life if they can find a few deep-pocketed donors willing to give to the Super PACS supporting them,” said Cross, who is writing a book about Jindal. “But it’s certainly important to be seen eventually as one of the contenders on the main stage.”
Jindal was able to reiterate his often-repeated themes during the debate. Among them: attacking “radical Islam,” his warning of the American dream becoming the “European nightmare” and his contention “immigration without assimilation is an invasion.”
The governor also said he wanted to stop a growing “culture of dependency” and illustrated his refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion in Louisiana.
Jindal’s campaign predictably declared victory in its statement afterward.
“Tonight, there was no lack of good lines and clever quips from candidates,” campaign manager Timmy Teepell said. “We saw plenty of smooth talking and famous names running for president, but only one candidate in the race has the backbone, the bandwith and the experience to get the job done as president — Gov. Jindal.”
Follow Greg Hilburn on Twitter @GregHilburn1