Pete Buttigieg: The Candidate Democrat Rivals Love to Hate

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the candidate most hated by his rivals for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, according to a profile Saturday by the New York Times.

The Times reports that other candidates resent Buttigieg’s “know-it-all” attitude, given his experience — and are jealous of his star power and fundraising prowess.

In the still-crowded Democratic presidential field, one man has triggered an outpouring of resentment and angst.

It’s not Donald Trump.

As Mr. Buttigieg, the millennial mayor of a town smaller than a New York City Council district, rises in the polls, he has struck a nerve with his Democratic rivals.

Many of their campaigns have griped privately about the attention and cash directed toward Mr. Buttigieg. They say he is too inexperienced to be electable and that his accomplishments don’t merit the outsize appeal he has with elite donors and voters. His public punditry about the race has prompted eye rolls from older rivals who view him as a know-it-all.

And in a field where most candidates find themselves strapped for cash, they snipe at his ability to raise more than anyone else in the primary field except for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The Times notes that Buttigieg irritated fellow candidates recently when he described the campaign as a two-way race between himself and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Other nuggets: former Vice President Joe Biden once greeted Buttigieg, sarcastically, as “Mr. President.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said that if other candidates had run with as little experience as Buttigieg, “I don’t think people would take us seriously.” Warren said Buttigieg was running a “consultant-driven campaign”; Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro said he Buttigieg did not appeal to minorities; Gov. Steve Bullock of Minnesota noted that Buttigieg had only won “9,000 votes in a college town [South Bend] that last voted for a Republican in 1964.”

And as other reports have noted, Buttigieg is considered too mainstream for some radical LGBT activists.

Buttigieg’s rise has been unusual, and rapid. He graduated from Harvard, won a Rhodes scholarship, and worked as a management consultant for McKinsey. Inspired by his work for Barack Obama’s campaign in Iowa in 2008, he joined the U.S. Navy Reserve. He ran for state treasurer in Indiana, and lost. He won the race for mayor in South Bend, and deployed to Afghanistan while serving his first term (unlike rival Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who resigned from a city council seat when she was called up for duty in Iraq). He came out as gay relatively recently.

He was re-elected mayor and ran for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee in 2017, buoyed by support from Silicon Valley donors, but lost to former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. He is the first openly gay presidential candidate, a fact that has boosted his profile and fundraising, even though he has said that he is not running “to be president of gay America.”

Buttigieg is very sharp, but his style is sometimes perceived as condescending. One repeated criticism from the right is that he likes to lecture conservatives on their supposed lack of Christian principles for failing to support government policies like a minimum wage, for example. He has also contrived a fight with Vice President Mike Pence, accusing him of being a religious extremist, though Pence has a long record of treating him respectfully.

Support for Buttigieg has surged in Iowa, as he attempts to repeat Obama’s strategy of shocking more established rivals in the caucuses there, and using that momentum to win elsewhere, even though his national polls remain somewhat low. The Times notes that Buttigieg has been able to set up field offices in early primary states, making him a competitive candidate.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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