Tailgating with Bobby Jindal

Posted: November 9, 2015 | By: Iowa Caucus Project Staff Tagged: Blog
Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal talks with an audience gathered at the Saints Pub and Patio in Waukee on Saturday afternoon. Photo by Sarah LeBlanc.

I know absolutely nothing about sports. Knowledge of this sort might seem kind of necessary for a tailgating event, but Bobby Jindal at Saints Pub and Patio in Waukee was too tempting to resist — mostly because some Iowans think it could be one of his last stops. Not too surprising, seeing as if you Google “Is Bobby Jindal…” the first search option finishes your statement with “still running for president” (right up there is also “Is Bobby Jindal married,” and if people are wondering because they think he’s hot stuff, a certain Democratic candidate isn’t lacking either). Haters may hate, but Jindal is rising in Iowa polls: from 4 percent in August to a resounding 6 percent in October. He may also be having money problems, but his super PAC, Believe Again, is keeping him afloat. Notably, Jindal didn’t mention big money in politics once in his speech. Keep throwing obstacles his way, and he’ll keep slowly climbing over them.

Despite living in Madison, Wisconsin, and before then living close to Milwaukee, home of the Brewers, I’d never been to a tailgating event before. For me, tailgating is eating hot dogs cooked in a portable grill out of the back of a pickup truck like in the commercials and, well, this was definitely not that. Free wings, chips and soda were provided, though, so all the necessary elements of a high-class pre-gaming event were there. I arrived a little late (but still earlier than Jindal) and was put in the awkward position of standing near the door and moving whenever someone came in or wanted a soda since the event was reasonably crowded. I must have looked as awkward and out of place as I felt, because the woman in charge of checking people in motioned to me with her clipboard and then whipped it behind her and told me to go sit in one of the chairs at the front. And by front, she meant the closest chair to Bobby Jindal. THE CLOSEST CHAIR. It gets better, because I looked up and saw a camera directed straight at me, which is not distracting at all. Luckily, the woman sitting next to me took my mind off of all of this by asking me to help her clear her phone’s photos so she could get pictures of the Louisiana governor and we bonded over the unfortunate new Apple update.

Let’s talk about the demographic. It was actually surprising because there were a couple of young children and teenaged and college-aged kids there too, outside of myself. There was an iconic Iowan right out of American Gothic in overalls and a cowboy hat, and a proud American in a jean jacket with bedazzled stars sitting right in the front row. As required of political candidates, Jindal arrived around 20 minutes late and ran 30 minutes long. For a guy who stressed sticking to your word almost his entire speech, punctuality should be right up there.

Bobby Jindal’s spirituality was also a core element of his speech, drawing “amens” from the audience on several occasions when he discussed his conversion to Christianity. One of the most poignant moments for me, though, was when Jindal asked what the worst thing Barack Obama has done as president. I mean, you just know you’re going to get some distasteful answers. But one guy piped up and thought it was perfectly acceptable to say, “He was born!” which, one, doesn’t make sense according to how the question was phrased, and two, made Jindal laugh. LAUGH. That’s pretty harsh if you ask me.

After the event, I asked Debby from Clive, a Drake alumna who, unlike me, made the free choice to sit in the front, about what she thought of the event. “Everything he says I agree with,” said Debby, who identifies as a Republican.

Like many Iowans, Debby enjoys the intimacy of political events that Iowa affords its residents. “I like to do the small events where you can get close and shake their hands and talk to them,” Debby said. “(Candidates) can really get out and let their message be heard, and it’s good for them and it’s good for us.”

For Debby, losing the caucuses are an issue that concerns her and she hopes Iowa gets to keep it’s political clout because its people are dedicated to choosing the best candidate for the nation. In Debby’s opinion, there’s one candidate right now that fits the bill. “I’ll tell you who I really, really really like is Carly (Fiorina),” Debby said. “She’s a straight arrow. You ask her questions she answers it to the very end and she doesn’t spin anything. She’s as smart as can be.”

Granted, she also appreciates Jindal’s bluntness. Even though these candidates aren’t in the top three in the polls, the race isn’t decided yet.

IMG_1215LeBlanc is a junior political science and journalism major from Madison, Wisconsin. She’s visited three countries in the last six months and enjoys copious amounts of Netflix, chocolate and bad puns. Follow her on Twitter.