South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) said today that his campaign raised enough individual donors to guarantee a spot at the first Democratic Party debate of the 2020 cycle.
Buttigieg said on Twitter that his team had received more than 76,000 individual donations, passing the 65,000 individual threshold set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
The Navy veteran with a hard-to-pronounce name, from a city small enough to fit every resident in a college football stadium, seems to having a Jimmy Carter moment.
Weeks after declaring his interest in challenging President Trump, he has become, if not exactly well-known, a subject of interest for many Democratic voters, buoyed by a breakout performance at a CNN town hall on March 10.
Many Democrats praised the way Buttigieg went after Vice President Pence, a vocal religious conservative, describing him as “the cheerleader of the porn star presidency.”
“Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?” Buttigieg asked.
His moment came just days before another youthful candidate, former congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas, grabbed the spotlight by announcing his entrance into the race.
Buttigieg downplayed the impact of a rival fresh face joining the fray, joking that he has the “white Episcopalian gay veteran” lane to himself.
He plans to double his campaign staff from 20 to 40 “in a matter of days,” and his team is narrowing down options for a bigger South Bend headquarters — perhaps an entire floor of a downtown high rise.
Even in a Democratic field full of nontraditional candidates, Buttigieg stands out in many ways.
A military veteran who deployed to Afghanistan, he is openly gay, and his husband, Chasten, maintains a lively Twitter presence.
He would be the youngest president in history.
No mayor has ever ascended directly to the presidency, let alone from a city of about 102,000.
Buttigieg is also one of the few Democratic hopefuls from a state carried by Trump.
Central to his message is the case that he knows how to appeal to Republican voters whom, he says, Democrats have too often ignored.
Some of Buttigieg’s ideas are unorthodox, though he’s not alone in the Democratic field in that regard.
He is outspoken about his desire to abolish the electoral college, for example, and has suggested a Supreme Court composed of 15 justices, including five who would be appointed by the other 10.
Both ideas would probably require a constitutional amendment.
Buttigieg often argues Democrats should not cede the word “freedom” to Republicans, citing his marriage as a way the government gave him freedom to pursue his rights.
He supports the Green New Deal promoted by liberals in Congress, saying it’s a good start in tackling the climate crisis.
He backs a single-payer health-care system, though he says private insurance companies should play a role.
He opposes the Trump administration’s tough approach to immigration.
Some Democrats say privately Buttigieg may not be prepared to be president, given his youth and that he’s never served in national or even statewide office.
Trump’s tenure, they say, has soured Democrats on the notion of inexperienced candidates jumping into the presidency.
Buttigieg responds that, having been South Bend mayor since 2012, he has longer government experience than Trump and more executive credentials than Pence, who was Indiana’s governor for four years.
As mayor, Buttigieg said, he’s had to solve everyday problems and cannot get away with spinning them.
“You can’t walk down a street and have someone point out a pothole and say, ‘There’s no pothole there,’ ” said Buttigieg’s senior adviser Mike Schmul, a high school friend who also ran his mayoral campaigns.
Buttigieg claims his administration has filled 365,000 potholes during his eight-year tenure.
Besides O’Rourke, Bettigieg is competing in a dense Democratic primary field that includes Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Cory Booker, Sec. Julian Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Jay Inslee, and Sen. Kamala Harris.