"Vote Mayor Pete!"
That's how an email from my doctor here in Myrtle Beach, SC closed an email to me this morning in which he thanked me for sending him a couple of my "Keyboard Warrior" shirts.
Really? He's for Mayor Pete?
Remember, this highly respected and nationally known physician lives and works in South Carolina, a deeply red state that Republicans are counting on in the 2020 elections. And while I know this guy, who loves to talk politics during my appointments with him, has an undeniable liberal streak on social issues, those words surprised me.
So, what's with Pete Buttigieg and why is he suddenly so popular?
The Washington Post did a great piece today that sought to answer those questions. Here's how writer Amber Phillips opened her story:
On paper, Pete Buttigieg doesn’t seem like a high-profile presidential candidate. But somehow, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has become a serious political force.
She pointed out that an April Monmouth University poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucus attendees found Buttigieg in third place at 9% of the vote behind former vice president Joe Biden (27%) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (16%). He was followed by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 7% and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke at 6%.
Philips also noted that an April St. Anselm poll of Democratic voters in New Hampshire, also found Buttigieg in third place as well. Her story noted that Buttigieg outraised four sitting senators in the first three months of this year, while spending less than his competitors for exposure.
So what's behind this phenomenon? Will it last?
Her article points out that one of Mayor Pete's significant problems may be that his support seems to be largely coming from white Democrats, and another report I saw on MSNBC yesterday indicated that his popularity seemed to increase according to voters' income -- in other words, the better off you are, the more likely you are to like Buttigieg. Will that work against him in the quest for support from lower income and minority community voters?
Of course, the fact that he is gay and married to a man will draw haters. But he is handling that issue with grace, besting Vice President Pence, former governor of Indiana, by saying "“That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: That if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me,” Buttigieg said. “Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
Here are some of the top line reasons Phillips' article suggested may be behind Buttigieg's popularity:
1. Buttigieg is a novelty for Democrats. There are four senators from the Northeast running for president. By contrast, Buttigieg is from the Midwest, he’s a veteran who served in Afghanistan, and he unapologetically talks about his Christian faith in a way that helps voters feel like the Republican Party is not the only one with a claim to talk about faith.
2. There are aspects of his profile that excite more liberal members of the party. Like the fact he’s 37 and openly gay. (He came out as gay while mayor.) If he were to win, he would be both the first openly gay president and the youngest president ever.
3. The Democratic Party has been without a clear leader since President Trump won. So why not look to someone outside Washington?
4. Buttigieg is a candidate some Democrats could see taking on Trump successfully. Most Democratic voters more than anything want a candidate who can defeat Trump.
5. He’s got the intangibles. Buttigieg has a calm personality, an ease on the biggest stage possible and a direct, eloquent way of speaking that has earned him comparisons to a young Barack Obama.
There is no doubt Mayor Pete is impressive. Smart. Calm. Common sense. Fearless but not a braggart. Will he last, or is he just a flash in the pan?
That will be interesting to watch, but for those who are convinced America needs to hand the reigns over to a new generation, that we need young, intelligent leadership not bound by the politics of the past, he is, indeed, an attractive alternative.