Mayor Pete: Democrats’ new dark horse
Pete Buttigieg “is having a moment,” said Nathaniel Rakich in FiveThirtyEight.com. The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., is the first “breakout” contender in the Democratic presidential primary, placing third in a recent poll of Iowa voters and raising an impressive $7 million. Most Americans haven’t heard of Mayor Pete, who’s still explaining how to pronounce his Maltese name (BOOT-edge-edge). Yet he wins supporters with every TV appearance, said Alex Shephard in NewRepublic.com. In an absurdly crowded primary, his profile “is unlike any other presidential candidate, ever.” He’s a married gay man, “a devout Episcopalian,” a Harvard graduate, a Rhodes scholar, and a Navy veteran who took a six-month leave of absence as mayor to serve in Afghanistan. Though left of center, he’s primarily an earnest pragmatist who claims he’s uniquely qualified to bridge the divide between America’s coasts and its flyover states. “We would be well-served if Washington started to look more like our best-run cities and towns,” Buttigieg says.
Despite the modest exterior, said Jim Geraghty in NationalReview.com, Buttigieg “is wildly ambitious,” even by politician standards. Not many gay, small-city mayors under 40 run for president. He’s also “bright,” levelheaded, and more liberal than he lets on, supporting a form of Medicare for All and the so-called Green New Deal. On paper, said Tiana Lowe in WashingtonExaminer.com, it’s easy to compare Buttigieg to another young presidential hopeful, Beto O’Rourke. But the former congressman from El Paso is an attention-seeking “trust fund baby” experiencing “a public midlife crisis.” If liberals want a “dark horse” with “authentic charisma, intellect, and policy chops,” Buttigieg over Beto is a no-brainer.
Amid this “Buttigieg Boomlet,” it’s easy to forget that not long ago, his sexuality “probably would have been a deal breaker,” said David Byler in WashingtonPost.com. But the public’s views on LGBT issues have shifted astonishingly quickly; in a 2015 poll, 74 percent of Americans said they would vote for a “well-qualified” gay presidential candidate. Of course, people who say they’ll vote for a gay candidate might still find an excuse to shy away. But even if Buttigieg “doesn’t end up in the White House,” a campaign in which his sexual orientation is a nonissue is a “real, if subtle, victory for LGBT equality.” ■