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How one speech changed the course of Republican darling Bobby Jindal's career

It was February 24, 2009.

Bobby Jindal, then in his first term as governor of Louisiana and a rising star in the Republican Party, was tapped to deliver the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s joint address to Congress. Obama’s speech focused on economic recovery and health-care reform and, despite its grim focus, was greeted with applause and standing ovations.

Jindal’s response, televised immediately after, was supposed to be his big political "coming out." If the speech went well, many thought it would provide a jumping-off point for a possible presidential run in 2012.

Instead, Jindal became the object of bipartisan ridicule. Jon Stewart skewered his Mr. Rogers–esque delivery — Jindal's over-enunciation and earnest stare seemed more appropriate for addressing 5-year-olds than adults. Republican strategist David Johnson characterized the speech simply as a "flop." Even Fox News criticized Jindal’s delivery as "amateurish."

To be fair, such responses are often derided. In 1985, a young governor of Arkansas named Bill Clinton emceed the Democratic video response to Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address. While Clinton’s delivery frequently makes lists of the worst political speeches, his political career recovered, and he clinched the Democratic nomination seven years later.

But six years on, Jindal has not been as fortunate — things like an embarrassing budget collapse and tax flip-flop haven't done anything to wipe away the bad memories of his speech. While he is expected to officially enter the Republican race tomorrow, Jindal is polling at less than 1 percent. At this rate, he won't even make it to the Republican debates.

Watch Jindal’s full speech here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the year when Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination. The correct year is 1992.


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