The recent headline in Vogue sums up the state of the Democratic race for the party nomination perfectly: “Who Is Pete Buttigieg, the Gay Millennial Mayor the Democrats Didn’t See Coming?”
It’s hard to avoid the 37-year-old from a media perspective in recent weeks, and for good reason. Even those on the other side of the aisle will say, almost in unison, that Buttigieg presents himself in a composed, informed manner. He is arguably the most articulate candidate — still in exploratory-committee mode — of the 15 people running on the Democratic side.
Policy aside, it’s hard not to be impressed with any and every interview he’s done to this point in terms of the presentation, whatever argument he’s attempting to make. And the results are almost no negative stories to this point:
“Why You Love Mayor Pete” — New York Times
We hear much about Joe Biden, who has had the worst month of any of the likely or declared candidates in the race. Biden is the only person on the blue team who can appeal to the voters President Trump captured in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania in 2016.
But Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., also has that appeal — while also possessing the bona fides of being educated at Harvard and Oxford. Buttigieg has the advantage of being nearly 40 years younger than the former vice president and may be more what the party’s anti-establishment wing is looking for in a candidate.
Despite having little name recognition entering campaign season, Buttigieg raised more than $7 million in the first quarter. He is now the most searched candidate on the Democratic side — and he hasn’t even officially declared yet.
But he’s just 37, some will say. That’s barely the required age to run for president (35). No matter, because consider this: Mayor Pete is a gift-wrapped, made-for-Acela media candidate and that will push him to the top or near the top of the field when the debate season begins this summer. Because as Trump and President Obama showed, experience means almost nothing these days to voters — and is even a detriment, due to the whole infected-by-establishment-swamp-politics thing.
Data released by Google this week shows that Buttigieg is also winning the internet — what Trump would tell you is the most important turf out there. Trump as a candidate was masterful on social media, particularly Twitter, in getting out his candid and often provocative message, beyond the media filter and directly to voters.
Per Google, the most-searched potential 2020 Democratic candidates are Biden and Buttigieg over the past week, in that order. But in Biden’s case, who saw a 100 percent increase in the past week, much of it is fueled by allegations of inappropriate touching by multiple women.
Buttigieg, who saw a 35 percent increase, finished second even above media darling Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman. Buttigieg is being searched likely because people want to learn more about him, for arguably the right reasons if his rising poll numbers are any indication.
Axios reported earlier this week that Buttigieg had “more social-media interest per article than any of his potential 2020 rivals.”
With more attention comes more scrutiny.
But for the Harvard and Oxford grad, Rhodes Scholar and Afghanistan War veteran who became the mayor of the town that is home to Notre Dame, all the stars from a media and social media perspective are lining up. All this attention is propelling Buttigieg from obscure longshot to top-tier candidate in a crowded and chaotic Democratic field.