(Bloomberg Politics) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is poised to join the crowded race for the Republican presidential nomination with an announcement at a rally outside New Orleans on Wednesday.
Jindal, the first Indian-American governor in the U.S., is a 44-year-old evangelical Catholic conservative and Rhodes scholar policy wonk who his advisers say appeals to a broad swath of the electorate.
“Unlike a lot of candidates who excel with social conservatives, he has multiple gears,” said Brad Todd, a consultant for Jindal. “He is the youngest candidate with the longest résumé.”
Jindal would be the 13th Republican to enter the race, if he does so at the event at 4 p.m. local time. He is polling near the back of the pack: A May Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll found him tied in second-to-last place behind former New York Governor George Pataki with 1 percent of the vote.
The son of Indian immigrants, Piyush Jindal nicknamed himself Bobby as a child, after a character on The Brady Bunch. He converted to Catholicism as a teenager; in 1994, he described an exorcism he had witnessed for the Catholic journal New Oxford Review.
Jindal earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University, and a master’s degree from New College, Oxford, specializing in health policy. He turned down offers to attend medical schools at both Harvard and Yale to pursue public service.
He became Louisiana’s secretary of Health and Hospitals at age 24. He served as director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare in Washington, as president of the Louisiana State University system, and as President George W. Bush’s assistant health and human services secretary before making his first run for governor in 2003.
Jindal seemed an unlikely candidate, said political consultant Curt Anderson, who vetted the would-be governor for Republican power broker Haley Barbour, who later became governor of neighboring Mississippi. Anderson said he initially thought the skinny young man was an intern: “I thought it was a Haley prank. This guy looks like he’s 12 and he doesn’t look anything like he’s from Louisiana.”
Anderson has been a Jindal adviser ever since.
Jindal lost in 2003. He won a Congressional seat the next year and the governor’s office in 2007, at age 36.
As a non-white Southerner, a son of immigrants, an evangelical, and a data-driven technocrat, Jindal was seen as a rising party star.