As strange as it may sound, the mayor of a medium-size city in the Midwest is now a real contender for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
A late March Quinnipiac poll had Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, tied with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for fifth place nationally, putting him ahead of Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). On Monday, Buttigieg announced that his campaign raised more than $7 million in the first quarter of 2019, a non-trivial figure for a candidate whom almost no one took seriously when he first entered the race. And a recent Economist/YouGov poll found Buttigieg was one of only three candidates in the Democratic field with a net-positive national approval (though a majority of those polled didn’t know enough about him to have an opinion).
Buttigieg has a kind of dual appeal. Some moderates like his Midwestern background, elite credentials (he’s a graduate of Harvard and Oxford), and soft-spoken but knowledgeable way of talking about policy. Liberal Democrats see in Buttigieg an intellectual who could be President Trump’s polar opposite, and whose focus on political reforms like abolishing the Electoral College channels their frustration with a system that feels rigged in the GOP’s favor.
“In recent times, appealing to Republican legislators has been wasteful because they’ve mostly been acting in bad faith,” Buttigieg told me in a phone call last week.
Interviews and press appearances like our call have, so far, been the bread and butter of his campaign. After a breakout performance at a CNN town hall in early March, Buttigieg has received a significant increase in media attention and positive coverage. (By now, many more people know that it’s pronounced “Boot-edge-edge.”) His campaign has leveraged this into social media popularity and viral stardom, all of which has translated to a significant bump in the polls and fundraising. [Continue reading…]