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CONCORD, N.H.—If Pete Buttigieg has been having a moment in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, it seemed to begin morph into something of a movement this weekend. On Friday, I flew out to New England from Indianapolis to track the South Bend mayor on his third swing through New Hampshire since announcing his exploratory committee on Jan. 23.
Here’s what I learned:
1. The buzz around Buttigieg is moving people on the ground. Approximately 500 people showed up to his first stop in Manchester, at the Currier Museum of Art, a venue that only allowed for 300 people or so. On Saturday, at a Concord bookstore, up to 300 people crammed in between bookshelves to hear the mayor deliver his stump speech. (In February, Sen. Sherrod Brown drew about 70 to the same bookstore). Roughly 30 reporters from international and domestic outlets—ranging from The Atlantic to The Economist—trailed Buttigieg throughout his stops.
2. Buttigieg doesn’t have much of an advance staff, and his campaign is trying to catch up to the demand. The few hundred people stuck outside on Friday were angry they couldn’t get inside, and told volunteers they had RSVP’d. Volunteers at both events circulated clipboards with sign-up sheets to join the campaign. Buttigieg ended his stump speeches with calls-to-action for help getting his message out.
3. On the stump, Buttigieg didn’t take questions from the audience like he did in his previous New Hampshire stops. Nor did he talk in-depth about policy proposals. Some voters told me they wanted to hear more specifics. Buttigieg said he’ll pivot soon. “I think we as Democrats, being as we are, policy people, sometimes forget to talk about the values that motivate our policies,” he said Friday in Manchester. “So you're going to hear a lot from me about policy. But first, you're going to hear a lot from me about values. Values like freedom, security, and democracy.”
After Buttigieg’s meet-and-greet Friday, RNC spokesman Michael Joyce said in a statement: “Buttigieg will do and say anything to appease liberal elites and ultimately that lack of character and conviction will relegate him to being a $1000 Jeopardy answer in the distant future.”
More from my dispatch for Indianapolis Monthly:
Pete Buttigieg isn’t ours alone anymore. Somewhere between the launch of his presidential exploratory committee on January 23 and the moment he stepped on a platform Friday night in Manchester, New Hampshire, at the Currier Museum of Art to address an overflow crowd of 300 people screaming “Pete” and “President Pete,” we’ve had to let him go.
Maybe it was when the South Bend mayor delivered a breakout performance at his March 11 CNN town hall, when he stepped up his criticism of his fellow Hoosier and Vice President Mike Pence by calling him a “cheerleader for the porn star presidency.”
Maybe it was when MSNBC Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough compared him to former President Barack Obama.
Whenever it happened, it’s given away to what a litany of news anchors and print journalists and talking heads have labeled a “moment,” a “bubble,” a “boomlet.”
The first of two meet-and-greets on his third visit to New Hampshire this year wasn’t even supposed to be at this museum, but the campaign had to switch venues at the last minute for more room. It was originally scheduled to be at a craft brewery and taproom across town called To Share. Which is exactly what residents of South Bend and thousands of Buttigieg boosters back Indianapolis are having to learn how to do with the 37-year-old Democrat.
When he arrived last night around 7:30 p.m., he made a beeline outside to where a few hundred people who had RSVP’d to the event but couldn’t get inside fumed, waiting for two hours in the parking lot amid chilly temperatures. But that anger broke into cheers when Buttigieg climbed atop a park bench to speak.
“We got a bigger venue,” he told them. “But I heard there’s this pesky fire code.”
Read more here.
WHAT’S NEXT: Buttigieg makes his announcement in South Bend next Sunday—nine years to the month he announced his bid for state treasurer at Dyngus Day in 2010. Where in South Bend will he announce? The South Bend Cubs have a game that day, so Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium is out. He could announce at the old Studebaker plant Building 84, known as the Ivory Tower. The plant’s transformation could help tell the story of how he’s helped transform the city. “I'm out there making the case that South Bend is living proof that a good politics is not one based on the word ‘again,’” he said Friday night.
My guess? A scenic place with the Jefferson Boulevard Bridge in the background—a visual metaphor for his argument that he can be an intergenerational bridge to 2052, when he’ll reach the age of the current president—a line he uses in his speeches. The bridge is also featured in his announcement video.
Good Sunday evening, and welcome back to IMPORTANTVILLE. The Indiana House and Senate are in session tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. Here’s what remains to resolved. Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers will deliver her State of Higher Education Address at 4 p.m. at the Statehouse.
The newsletter was on hiatus at the end of last week as I traveled to New Hampshire. I’ll be reporting from South Bend next Sunday.
WHERE’S PETE? He’s campaigning in Nevada today—his first trip to the early 2020 state. He’ll be on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” Thursday. Following his announcement Sunday, he’s headed to Iowa next Tuesday and Wednesday, with five stops across the state.
PETE MEETS THE PRESS
Buttigieg sat for an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, his first appearance on the show that is a proving ground for candidates. He earned rave reviews from the likes of conservative Hugh Hewitt. “I’ve been following him very closely,” he said. “He worries me from a Republican standpoint.”
On the Second Amendment: “Somewhere in between a slingshot and a nuclear weapon we’re going to draw a line on what makes sense. The same way my free speech doesn’t include yelling fire in a crowded theater, in the same way as one Supreme Court justice said “my right to swing my fist ends where somebody else’s nose begins,” there are common sense limits that a thinking society can live by while making sure we honor the lifestyle of sport hunting, where so many family bonds are created in just a deep part of our tradition, and the idea that people should be equipped to defend themselves if they need to.”
On abortion rights: “So as someone who is pro-choice, but who has many friends and even supporters who view this issue very differently than I do, I think [the conversation] begins by having some measure of good faith and understanding that people arrive at their convictions on this often from a deeply felt and sincerely held place. But in my view this is a question that is almost unknowable. This is a moral question that is not going to be settled by science, and so the best way for it to be settled in practice is by the person who actually faces the choice, and when a woman actually faces this decision in her life I think, in terms of someone besides her who would be most useful in that, the answer would be a doctor, not a male government official imposing his interpretation of his religion.”
Jim Merritt, state senator and candidate for Indianapolis mayor, rode along with FOX59 and CBS4 News Anchor Bob Donaldson to talk about potholes.
Gov. Eric Holcomb talked with reporters about the final outcome of the hate crimes debate.
Fox 59 Fanchon Stinger snagged a sit down with Second Lady Karen Pence.
A belated happy birthday to Purdue University President and former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who turned 70 yesterday.
Peter Canellos, POLITICO Magazine: “Why Beto and Buttigieg Pretend to Be Kennedys”
For the past six decades, Democrats have been mesmerized by the Kennedy style, like adult children searching for the forever-young father who left them before his time. The pressure for candidates to fit the Kennedy mold—in looks, style and political bearing—became so oppressive that the writer Garry Wills coined a term for it: “The Kennedy imprisonment.”
The generation of politicians that immediately followed John F. Kennedy—John Kerry, John Tunney and even Republicans like John Lindsay—tried so hard to emulate JFK that they enacted impersonations: fastening the top button of their suit jackets to flap in precisely the same patterns as his, chopping the air with their hands like he did, extending their necks to mimic his chin-in-the-air stance at the lectern. In more recent years, such candidates felt freer to adopt their own mannerisms but their political posture remained pure JFK: that of the young and earnest outsider, alone on the stage, a prince suffused in a golden aura of charisma.
Now, as the 2020 contenders emerge from the wings, the Kennedy ghost is alive again, mostly in the person of former Texas Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke. Unlike the JFK mannequins, he has chosen to ape the tousled Bobby variant of the Kennedy style, honed after Dallas, that of the surviving brother searching for meaning in a strange and violent world. He even shares Bobby Kennedy’s first two names. But the 46-year-old O’Rourke must compete with an even younger Kennedy clone—the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend (Ind.), Pete Buttigieg, who (naturally) won the JFK Library’s Profile in Courage essay contest in 2000 as a sweaty-palmed high school senior. A decade later, in 2015, he won the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award from the Kennedy School at Harvard.
Salena Zito, NY Post: “How Pete Buttigieg could hurt Trump in the Rust Belt”
Pete Buttigieg is many things.
At just 37, he is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He is a military veteran and a deeply religious gay man who is married but also enjoys sandwiches from the (anti-gay marriage) Chick-fil-A. He is a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar who speaks eight languages. He is the first-ever millennial candidate for president and, so far, the only Democratic hopeful to appear on the “Fox News Sunday” show.
“I’m all of those things,” said Buttigieg — pronounced “Boot-edge-edge” — in an interview with The Post. But “I try not to have any kind of attribute … be totally defining.”
Critics say these attributes are the very reasons why he can’t beat Donald Trump. His supporters say they are the very reasons he can.
Mayor Pete, as he likes to be called, strikes a tone that is kinder and less combative than the insult-driven politics of Trump and the Democratic party’s far-left members. His boyish good looks, intelligence and military background are undoubtedly appealing, as is his faith.
“Scripture tells us to look after the least among us, that it also counsels humility and teaches us about what’s bigger than ourselves,” said Buttigieg, a devout Episcopalian. “It points the way toward an inclusive and unselfish politics that I strive to practice, whether I’m talking about my faith on the stump or not.”
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