Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is officially running for president. On Sunday, forced inside by an unseasonably cold rain, the small-city mayor and unlikely presidential contender announced his campaign in an auto-assembly plant refurbished as a mixed-use tech center.
“It’s time to walk away from the politics of the past, and toward something totally different,” Buttigieg said to the hometown crowd. “So that’s why I’m here today, joining you to make a little news. My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I am a proud son of South Bend, Indiana. And I am running for president of the United States.”
The first openly gay Democratic candidate for president, Buttigieg is enjoying an unexpected, if early, swing of momentum in his favor. Recent surveys of Democrats in key primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina show Buttigieg in third place behind Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who’s yet to officially announce. Buttigieg is holding his own financially as well, with a first-quarter $7 million that makes him fourth among Democrats who have announced fundraising numbers. “Candidly, I don’t even know all the reasons why this is going so well,” Buttigieg told New York’s Olivia Nuzzi for a cover profile in the latest issue of the magazine.
Of course, there are still 15 grueling months before the July 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, held three hours northwest of South Bend. The most glaring obstacle to Mayor Pete’s becoming the youngest-ever major-party presidential candidate lies right there in his nickname: There’s never been a candidate to hop straight from a mayor’s office to the White House, let alone an official from a Rust Belt town of 102,245. Plus some residents of South Bend are disappointed in Buttigieg’s town-revival efforts, arguing that they prioritize white and wealthy neighborhoods at the expense of people of color and the poor. Over a quarter of the town’s population lives at or below the poverty line, nine points higher than the national average.
But on Sunday, the hometown crowd was roaring for its mayor. In a speech with heavy use of the third person and a certain four-letter H-word associated with the last Democratic president, Buttigieg stressed a sense of revival. “It’s cold out, but we’ve had it with winter,” he said. “You and I have the chance to usher in a new American spring. So with hope in our hearts and fire in our bellies, let’s get to work and make history.” With that, he walked out to the soundtrack of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up and Around the Bend.”