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All About That Base: Jindal Rallies the Faithful

Rather than attending the Washington, D.C. Mardi Gras festivities, or Iowa’s Freedom Summit for GOP presidential hopefuls, Governor Bobby Jindal courted a base for a possible 2016 presidential run, keynoting both the Louisiana Right to Life March and his own “The Response” prayer rally. The two events were held concurrently on the campus of LSU.

Jindal has yet to make an official declaration of his candidacy for President, but he didn’t shy away from mentioning politics at the ostensibly religious event.

“We can‘t just elect a candidate to fix what ails our country. We need a spiritual revival to fix what ails our country,” Jindal told those attending the prayer rally.

Although the Right to Life group joined the prayer rally, only half the 13,000 seats in the PMAC were filled at any one time during the six-hour-long event. By the time Jindal delivered his testimony, less than a quarter of the seats were occupied. And attendees we spoke with consistently told us they had not come because of the governor.

“I strongly believe this nation needs to turn back to God,” said one woman from Baton Rouge, who preferred to be identified only as Linda.

Lesley McGuffey, also of Baton Rouge, said he came for the fellowship.

“In my eyes, nothing more. It’s not about a man. It’s about Christ,” McGuffey said.

But for those who demonstrated against the rally, it was about the man, Jindal. LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope joined the approximately 500 students, faculty, alumni and community activists in protesting the prayer rally and the governor headlining it.

“We have the governor taking a university to present his extremist views,” Cope stated, adding, “Fortunately, he’s thereby declaring his unfitness for leadership.”

For LSU English professor Chris Barrett, the main problem was the so-called “hate group” covering the costs of Jindal’s prayer-fest.

“The hate group, the American Family Association, promulgates views that are entirely at odds with the diversity-embracing environment the faculty tried to construct here on the LSU campus,” Barrett declared.

Across town at Southern University, another prayer rally was asking the Almighty for help with Louisiana-specific problems, like healthcare coverage, incarceration rates, and public education. W.T. Winfield, a former school board member, was critical of Jindal’s non-attendance at this event.

“This is where the biggest need is,” Winfield said. “But of course, he’s running for President of the United States, so he’s going where he thinks he’ll get the biggest bucks.”

But Jindal assured us that big bucks weren’t a factor in the prayer rally.

“There’s no collection plate. No one is making a profit from this,” the governor said.

Rally organizers were collection email addresses from attendees, however, and the lists will be made available to the Jindal camp.

And by Sunday, Jindal was sounding more like a presidential contender.

“We are seriously considering it,” Jindal told ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

When asked why he did the prayer rally instead of attending the GOP event in Iowa, Jindal said, “It is a time-honored tradition, going back to our nation’s founding, for our presidents to turn to God for guidance. George Washington did it. Abraham Lincoln did it. Harry Truman did it.”