Howard Dean endorses Buttigieg in DNC race

Howard Dean endorses Buttigieg in DNC race

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean early Wednesday endorsed Pete Buttigieg to lead the DNC, saying the party's leadership is "old and creaky."

Dean had intimated his support for the South Bend, Ind., mayor earlier this week, and made the endorsement official on Wednesday morning. 

Framing Buttigieg as the best-positioned outsider candidate, Dean warned on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the party will be "in trouble" without capturing the power of young voters. 

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Buttigieg, a Harvard-educated, Rhodes scholar and gay veteran, is just 35 years old. 

"Our strongest age group that votes for us is under 35 and they don't consider themselves Democrats. They elected Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAnother chance to seek the return of fiscal sanity to the halls of Congress Colombia’s new leader has a tough road ahead, and Obama holdovers aren't helping An alternative to Trump's family separation policy MORE twice, they didn't elect Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLewandowski says 'womp womp' at story of young girl being separated from mother at border Giuliani: FBI asked me about tease of a 'surprise' before election Republicans tear into IG finding on Clinton probe MORE but voted 58 percent for her. They don't come out during the midterms; they don't come out for down ballot voters," Dean said. 

"Our leadership is old and creaky, including me. We've got to have this guy, 36 years old, running this party."

Buttigieg said in a tweet he was "honored" by the endorsement.

"Gov. Dean is calling for not just a 50-state but a 50-year strategy. That's what I will work to establish as DNC chair - time for a change," he tweeted.

On a subsequent conference call with Dean, Buttigieg said he believes that the former DNC chairman — who will introduce him at Saturday's vote in Atlanta — will give his campaign a jolt of momentum down the stretch. 

Dean said the Democratic Party is in the "worst shape" since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, arguing that Buttigieg is the one to turn it around after massive electoral losses in local and state races. 

"I didn't particularly want to endorse anybody, but I came to the conclusion it was such an incredible opportunity for Democrats to bring in new voters," Dean said.

"We’ve got to vote for a real change and Pete is the candidate to bring real change.”  

Buttigieg has pitched himself as a candidate who can take the party in a new direction and will avoid re-fighting the battles of the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination race.

He also has the support of other former DNC chairmen, including Ed Rendell and Steven Grossman.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) currently holds the edge in the DNC race over former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, according to The Hill's new survey of 240 DNC members.

While both Ellison and Perez both claim they are close to securing commitments from the majority of the 447 voting members, neither candidate is assured victory on the first ballot. 

Out of those who responded, Ellison leads with 105 supporters to Perez's 57. The remaining major candidates have less than a dozen supporters each, while more than 50 DNC members remain undecided.

Ellison has the support of Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHeckler yells ‘Mr. President, f--- you’ as Trump arrives at Capitol Veteran New York Dems face upstart challengers Senate passes 6B defense bill MORE (I-Vt.) and other top progressives, while Perez, who worked for President Obama, has won more substantial support from more establishment party members.

If no candidate receives the majority on the first ballots, candidates will be cut until one wins. 

During the conference call, Buttigieg admitted that a multiple ballot situation could be his best shot at victory. And he said that he believes he's best positioned to emerge as the compromise candidate that would mollify the fractions in the party if the race goes in that direction. 

"It's not just DNC members from one particular camp who are saying they would support us on a second ballot, it's DNC members from each camp. That shows we are in the best position to unify the party," he said.  

Updated 11:48 a.m.