Whether mere perception or actual reality, suspicions are that Pete Buttigieg’s cozy ties with the Iowa Democratic Party helped him game the complicated caucuses system. The former South Bend, IN, mayor claimed a very murky “victory” on Feb. 3 before results were even released and, in doing so, may have firmly cemented his place on the Joe Biden wing of the Democratic establishment.
Mr. Midwestern Nice has certainly gained more attention from Iowa but it comes at a high price. He now forfeits any and all claims of being an outsider progressive, the very thing a huge portion of the party dearly wants in its 2020 nominee.
Young Biden Now
The Iowa maneuvering may have helped Buttigieg in the short run but it just might blow up in his face down the road. He will be saddled with the insider status that so many progressives – disgusted by the DNC shenanigans involving Hillary Clinton in her 2016 battle with underdog challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) – utterly despise.
Even if the mists of Iowa do fuel a boost for him in New Hampshire on Feb. 11, a “selected not elected” Buttigieg vibe could prove tremendously damaging in the bigger picture. The lingering imagery of a trending #MayorCheat hashtag on Twitter that immediately popped up in the wake of the Hawkeye State fiasco will absolutely stick among a large swath of progressive Democrat voters already paranoid over alleged DNC schemes to fix party primaries for establishment candidates.
Walking the Walk
Buttigieg’s unverified front-runner status made for an uncomfortable scene at the crushingly boring Democratic debate in Manchester, NH on Feb. 7. While Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Vice President Biden and others took shots at the young mayor’s inexperience on the national stage and trouble with courting minority voters, Buttigieg resorted to canned responses filled with vague platitudes. For those not already drawn to him, it would be easy to see Mayor Pete as a small-timer artificially elevated to a status he had not earned and lacking the policy heft that comes with such a position.
Buttigieg has made his play for the big time but does he have the content to match the sudden spike? His final statement in Manchester about children’s poverty in America was a monument to vapidity and does not bode well.
“A good economy is one where children are being lifted out of poverty,” the newly minted major player said, and who is going to argue with that? “This is one more example of something where the American people want to see change,” he added in another weight-deprived statement. “The American people, not just diehard Democrats, but so many independents, and some Republicans, think we need to prioritize economic equity, and yet it still doesn’t happen,” he continued. “That is why we need to recognize that the time has arrived for a different kind of politics, to turn the page, leave the politics of the past in the past, and deliver a better future before it is too late.”
To read that paragraph again is to realize that Buttigieg said absolutely nothing of substance. It’s hardly a new thing for him. At a town hall in Iowa in November, he said the following:
“We all have a stake. We all do better when all do better. On issue after issue, we have a chance to make big meaningful change.”
This is hardly a cherry-picked quote but standard Buttigieg campaign trail fare. And it will not be nearly enough under the spotlight afforded to the leading presidential candidates.
Too Much Too Soon?
Elbowing your way to the top of the heap via backroom intrigue in early voting, while offering nothing but empty bouquets, is rife with pitfalls. A precipitous decline may quickly follow that inorganic rise. It can be argued that Buttigieg would have been better to have quietly navigated his way through Iowa and New Hampshire while hopefully accruing a slowly building ball of momentum from solid if not “winning” results.
Evidently, the candidate believed his campaign did not have the lasting power for such an approach. And so he went the Insta-Contender path. Now he has to back it up on merit. Platitude Pete has yet to show that he is up to that part of the task.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.