Pete Buttigieg For President? Why A Mayor From Indiana May Be Trump’s 2020 Kryptonite
Even if you have been following the preliminary stages of the Democratic Primary, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (boot-edge-edge, according to his Twitter bio) of South Bend, Indiana may only be in your peripheral, if on your radar at all. Who could blame you? With powerhouse Democrats such as Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren in the fray, it is easy to overlook this seemingly obscure candidate from the Midwest. And yet, “Mayor Pete”, as he is affectionately known by his constituents, has caught the eye of no less than President Obama, who named him as one of the four people he believes to be the future of the Democratic Party.
His reasons are clear when you hear Buttigieg speak. He is sharp, articulate, and well spoken. He even speaks in complete sentences, something that only three years ago was not a quality you had to look for in a presidential candidate. The question still remains though; how could a two term, 37 year old mayor from Vice President Mike Pence’s old stomping grounds be the one to down Trump?
One factor that simply cannot be overlooked is Buttigieg’s crossover appeal. Not only is he from the Midwest, he has recognized that Democrats have overlooked the region, which contributed to their defeat in 2016, when Trump flipped both Michigan and Wisconsin, states that hadn’t voted red since the 1980s. And although not the industrial giant it once was, Buttigieg believes the area’s best days are still yet to come.
Another factor that will appeal to Republicans, right-leaning Independents, and undecided voters is Buttigieg’s military history. The Mayor served for seven months in Afghanistan as a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserves three years into his first term in office. At this moment especially, Americans are feeling nostalgic for the warrior class of politicians such as George H.W. Bush and John McCain. If you value veterans, as we all should, how would a politician who avoided the draft with phony diagnoses, feuded with a Gold Star family, and insulted the commander of the Osama bin Laden raid for not catching him fast enough compare to someone who not only served in the military, but served while in office?
Veterans voted for Trump over Clinton 2-1, and have historically preferred the Republican candidate to the Democrat. While Democrats may not win the majority of the veteran vote in the near future, they can certainly put a dent in Trump’s support, something that could be critical in purple states where Trump won by small margins.
Finally, as a mayor, Buttigieg has kept a relatively safe distance from Washington D.C., giving his candidacy more of an outsider flavor. Being the outsider, after all, was a major factor that played into Donald Trump’s success in 2016. Perhaps Mayor Pete will have just enough outsider appeal to swing otherwise would-be Trump voters.
What all of these factors boil down to is pure electability. The Rustbelt States are vital to winning in 2020, and Buttigieg checks off all the boxes of your perfect Rustbelt candidate. This is something that many candidates lack, especially the Eastern Seaboard candidates. “East coast elitism” is a hard label to shake, accurate or not, and West Coast candidates will face similar criticisms. Flyover country candidates, then, are the candidates to look to as middle America takes center stage in 2020.
While we should of course keep an open mind during the primary debates, we should also keep an eye on Mayor Pete to make waves in the months ahead. Who knows? It could very well be that city hall is the shortest way to the Oval Office.