Krystal Ball: Media turns on Buttigieg, will this end him?

Opinion by: Krystal Ball

Well guys it finally happened, the media, for the first time ever, actually asked Mayor Pete a hard question. We weren’t certain this day would ever come, but here it is and it’s truly something to behold. Here’s the man that CNN only recently hailed as perhaps the next Obama at a press avail in Iowa:

“Earlier today you said you were open to having a conversation about opening up fundraisers and that’s a question that reporters have been asking for months now. So, I’m wondering when do you expect to be actually have that conversation and give an answer on that.”
“I don’t have a timeline for it.”
“As the candidate can’t you just direct your team to open these fundraisers?”
“And why haven’t you done that?”
“There’s a lot of considerations and I’m thinking about it.”
“Next question”
“Can you give us an example of those considerations.”
“No. Thank you”

Yes almost impossible to distinguish that brittle, snarky, defensive response from the most skilled political rockstar of our generation. That whole nice Midwesterner who wants to bring us all together veneer sure doesn’t take much to crack, does it?

But wait! There’s more. Watch Pete tell a voter straight up that he’s not going to stop with the shady big money politics.

“I wanted to ask if you think that taking big money out of politics includes not taking money off of billionaires and closed-door fundraisers.”

Well, there ya go. Points for honesty I guess?

I love that that godforsaken high hopes song is playing in the background.

Now, the issue that Pete’s getting pressed on here is real by the way. Here’s Pete claiming to be a new kind of politician ushering a new hazily hopeful era but pulling the same cynical Washington moves as a hardened Washington operative. Basically, ‘mister generational change’ has been pulling down massive cash from Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Of course, the FEC requires that donors be disclosed, but there is no required disclosure for bundlers. Rich people who go out and collect the checks of their rich friends, so that they can suck up to a candidate in favor of access, favors, ambassadorships and the like.

Now, Pete had originally disclosed his bundlers and high dollar event hosts but stopped shortly after facing controversy over an event with a guy who helped block the release of the video of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago. So now, the public knows much less about who has their ear and what they might want.

Let’s also not forget that what was recorded on those secret police tapes in South Bend. It was racist white cops scheming to manipulate Pete into firing the city’s first black mayor by manipulating him through his biggest donors. So it matters that we know who has Pete’s ear and what they are saying to him. Although honestly watching him flip from backing Medicare-for-All to trashing it, use slimy dishonest talking points to undercut college for all, and embrace corporatist deficit talking points, I pretty much already know what they’re telling him.

Even more importantly though, this move reveals exactly the type of politician Peter is. Unlike Biden, Pete may actually be getting some small dollar donations. But there’s no doubt who his campaign is being run for and who will have the greatest access and influence were he to actually become president. I guess in that way he actually is rather Obamaesque.

I think this testy press avail though marks a more significant turning point in the mayor’s campaign. The media love fest has ended and really the media lovefest was really all Peter ever had. If you look at the story of his campaign, it has really been the story of the media coverage of his campaign. So, early on, Pete captured a moment with a CNN town hall in early march.

A CNN article about that event noted that a former Clinton aide, former DNC official, and even David Axelrod were all raving about his performance. Per Axelrod: “I have rarely seen a candidate make better use of televised town hall than @petebuttigieg is on @CNN tonight. Crisp, thoughtful and relatable. He’ll be a little less of a long shot tomorrow.”

And sure enough, as white liberals cast about searching for a savior, that positive media coverage did spin into a surge in the polls. But their interest wanned as Kamala Harris stole the spotlight at the first debate and then the media began their summer of love with Elizabeth Warren, which left Pete with lots of money but not a lot of elite media flattery.

Fast forward to debate 4, the media’s summer fling with Warren, who the Washington Post had called a Springsteineque folksy troubadour, was over. And debate 4 was pronounced by Van Jones to be the debate of Pistol Pete.

“Klobuchar. It was amazing to see the moderates today. You know what, enough. We’re tired of the wokenomics. We want to actually have a voice here. And I thought that Pete, you got a new candidate in this race. Pistol Pete, passionate Pete, a polite Pete. He was tough on Syria, he was tough on guns, he went back at folks. So, I thought that you might see a match up going forward if Biden fades between a Pete and a Warren, It would be very, very interesting.

Just before the Pistol Pete debate, he was sitting at 4.5% in the national polling average. Today, he’s jumped up nearly 7 points to 11.4. We all thought with him grabbing the lead in Iowa that perhaps, maybe just maybe, the moderators would challenge him on something in debate 5. After all, Ryan Grim had just published a bombshell piece about him faking black endorsements on his Douglass plan for black America. It was all teed up. And yet, nothing. They gave him frontrunner speaking time and softball questions. He continued to rise in the polls.

So that’s why this moment in Iowa is so significant. Especially, coming as it does on the heels of the New York Times editorial board calling Pete out for his lack of disclosure on his time at McKinsey. That editorial was published just after a stunning expose on how even ICE agents were horrified by the heartlessness of McKinsey’s consultant mercenaries. You live by the New York Times editorial board, you die by the New York Times editorial board and Pete has been living off media puffery for a long time now.

Elizabeth Warren has even had enough after months of watching Pete eat into her support. We reported last week on how for the first time ever, Warren is directly criticizing one of her opponents by name. The next debate is fast approaching and I wouldn’t expect the same kind treatment that he received last time.

Why is this happening now and who will they turn to next? Well as I explained last week, the season of flirtations is over. Now that we are into the holiday season with a January impeachment trial looming, the fun and games are over. Time for the establishment to in Dr. Jill Biden’s words, swallow a little bit and back Joe.

Now I will say, that I’m seeing one more attempt at the media trying to gin up Amy-mentum. But eventually, they’ll all come home to Uncle Joe. This may well be the end of Peter’s high high hopes. Don’t worry though, he’ll make a perfect MSNBC contributor.


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