This is the fifth in our series of early analysis of the candidates vying for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. We will try and provide 1-4 of these a week covering all of the candidates until they all have a page, and update some items periodically.
Pete Buttigieg (“Buddha-judge”)
Hometown: South Bend, Indiana
37, Mayor of South Bend, IN
Every four years, there is always one candidate that comes out of obscurity to garner attention and ride a wave of momentum to be considered a serious contender. Think Paul Tsongas, Howard Dean, Mike Gravel and John Edwards. Even Barack Obama in 2008 and Bernie Sanders in 2016 fit this bill to a certain extent. Part of it is novelty, part of it is that they represent parts of the Democratic party that are usually underrepresented by activists, but a large part of it is that they speak about issues that their main democratic opponents have neglected or don’t speak well about.
This year, it seems Pete Buttigieg is the man of the moment. “Mayor Pete” has sparked an enthusiasm that has risen the profile of this mayor of a mid-size college town in a GOP state to straight up contender. He has eloquently articulated a vision for america better than his opponents, and has energized a liberal base so far unenthusiastic about most of the candidates. In addition, as a Rhodes Scholar and veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan in the Navy Reserve, he has bona fides that make liberal activists drool. AS the youngest candidate out there, he can speak directly and authentically to millenials, who are quickly becoming one of the largest dem voting blocs. Lastly, as an openly gay man, he would be in a prime position to shine a light on issues affecting GLBTQ voters.
Path to the Nomination
Buttigieg is going to have to rely on securing a large portion of the white, well-educated, liberal portion of the democratic base if he is to have a chance. The mere fact that we are talking about him and that he has gone from an unknown to one of the top 5 candidates at the moment shows he has making inroads with this group. If he can continue to grow this base and then pick off enough voters from other groups, he can be a serious candidate. He’ll probably have to finish in the top two in either Iowa or New Hampshire to continue, but the fact that he was elected in Indiana can help him speak to Iowa voters and connect in a way many other big city candidates can’t.
His early results have been fantastic. Watching his speeches are to watch many audience members nodding their heads and agreeing with the young wunderkind. He’s built a movement that is gaining steam, and as the crowds get bigger, they don’t appear to be waning yet. Only time will tell if he can continue to grow his campaign, or if it peaked too early.
“Mayor Pete” clearly has a future. It remains to be seen if it is in the White House in 2020 or somewhere else. Even if he loses the nomination in 2020, at only 37, one can expect to be seeing more from him in the coming years. He’s saying and doing all the right things now, but the big question may be “is the dem party and america ready for him yet?”