It seems Gov. Bobby Jindal’s $500,000 advertising campaign was good money thrown after bad.
You’ve probably seen those ads paid for by Believe in Louisiana, the non-profit 527 political organization founded by Jindal supporter and Baton Rouge Business Report publisher Rolfe McCollister.
The advertising blitz was supposed to turn the tide in favor of Jindal’s proposal to abolish the state income tax in favor of a state sales tax increase that kept changing. The ads laid it out loud and clear: you either wanted to get rid of the state income tax or you preferred to “keep loopholes for lobbyists.” The ad concludes with the question, “Whose side are you on?”
Pretty simplistic. Very much like former President George W. Bush’s “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” in his dust-up to his Big Iraq Attack.
But just as Bush’s “Mission accomplished,” and his “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie” were a bit premature, so was the ad campaign.
And they were still running on Tuesday, a day after Jindal suddenly folded like a cheap suit on his tax proposal. That’s what happens when you make a large media buy. Just like furniture store and automotive ads that often continue to run a couple of days after a special promotional ad, the tax ads continue to implore viewers to tell their legislators to support the tax plan.
Jindal unexpectedly pulled the rug from under legislators who first heard that he was pulling the tax proposal bills when the governor announced it during his uncharacteristically brief 13-minute address to open the 2013 legislative session on Monday.
His decision, besides catching legislators short, also disappointed many who have grown to detest everything about this governor.
“I was almost sorry Jindal folded,” one Baton Rouge resident said. “I was hoping for a well-deserved humiliating defeat, which would have been good for the state, if not for him. He’s got about three more years to keep wrecking Louisiana. I’d rather have Edwards or Uncle Earl (Long) when he was in Mandeville,” he said in reference to Long’s commitment to East Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville in 1959 during the waning days of his last administration.
“Jindal is wrong about the GOP being the stupid party,” he said. “It’s the crazy party now and for the immediate future.”
Another longtime political observer said, “I wasn’t surprised that he capitulated. That was going to happen sooner or later. But I really was surprised that he had no Plan B,” he said. “How could they not have a fallback plan?”
The sudden retreat should not have caught anyone by surprise. Trying to decipher the governor’s tax plan was closely akin to trying to watch a black and white movie from the back row of an old drive-in theater in a thick fog.
But then, anyone parking on the back row of a drive-in theater on a foggy night probably had no intention of watching a movie in the first place, so perhaps that’s a bad analogy.
The lack of an alternative plan prompted retired Louisiana State Budget Director Stephen Winham to say that Jindal “never had a plan beyond elimination of income taxes and franchise taxes as an ancillary.”
But then Winham perhaps captured the quintessential Jindal when he predicted that Jindal would turn lemons into lemonade. “I think he can possibly salvage his national reputation, again based on my original premise that he can claim he tried to lead us to the Promised Land, but we just didn’t have sense enough to go.”
Winham said in a guest LouisianaVoice column way back on Jan. 25 that Jindal had “already achieved a major goal of this proposal—getting extensive national media coverage for making a bold proposal to fix Louisiana’s budget and economic development problems.”
A somewhat jaded Baton Rouge political junkie said Jindal realized his ambitious tax plan was stalled and would never get out of the House Ways and Means Committee. “No governor could have his plan die in committee, so he got in front of it and pulled it,” he said.
“I also think he did the smart thing by throwing it to the legislature. Now it’s on their backs. If they don’t come up with a plan (and they won’t) Jindal can blame the legislature,” he said, echoing Winham in predicting Jindal will play the blame game on his renewed national speaking tour.
Moving forward at the end of the day (as Jindal is fond of saying), the blame game is about all that is left for him in his efforts to save face in the coming weeks.
With the tax issue all but dead now, we can all turn our attention to the legislative debate on Jindal’s patchwork budget proposal.
That should be every bit as interesting as the highly anticipated tax debate that went out with a whimper after a lot of bravado, buildup and B.S.