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Forget Joe Biden: Should Democrats Turn to Pete Buttigieg?

Pete Buttigieg. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

Pete Buttigieg, then the mayor of South Bend, Ind., made an unexpectedly strong run at the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. As a candidate, he narrowly won the Iowa caucuses and enjoyed a brief run as the frontrunner. He ran the most successful presidential race ever by an openly gay candidate. 

But once Joe Biden won the South Carolina primary and dominated the next run of party contests, Pete Buttigieg dropped out and endorsed him. Biden, at the time of that endorsement in March 2020, declared that Buttigieg reminded him of his late son Beau. 

Once Biden was elected president, Pete Buttigieg was nominated and confirmed as Secretary of Transportation, and while that role has not traditionally been a springboard to higher office, it’s widely expected that Buttigieg, who is only 41 years old, will run for president, or perhaps another elected office, at some point in the future.

Last year, Buttigieg and his family switched their residency from Indiana to Michigan, a state these days that is a much more hospitable environment for Democrats

Time for Pete Buttigieg? 

Last month, the release of a poll out of New Hampshire got some Democrats talking about the possibility of another Buttigieg presidential run. 

The Granite State Poll, in the crucial early state of New Hampshire, was released on January 25, and it showed Buttigieg in the lead among a group of potential Democratic candidates. The Transportation Secretary has 23 percent support, followed by Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with 18 percent each, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with 15 percent. No other possible candidate held more than single digits, but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had 6 percent, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) garnered 5 percent and Vice President Kamala Harris held 2 percent. 

In the previous version of the poll, last July, Buttigieg led with 17 percent, over Biden with 16 percent, Warren with 10 percent, California Gov. Gavin Newsom with 10 percent, and Klobuchar with 9 percent. Newsom has dropped to 1 percent. Harris, meanwhile, is the top second choice among Democrats. 

In addition, the poll found that “two-thirds of New Hampshire Democrats don’t want [Biden] to run for re-election.” 

There are numerous caveats here. It’s one poll of one state. The first voting is nearly a year away, and it’s not entirely clear that New Hampshire will remain one of the first states on the calendar in 2024. 

Furthermore, none of those people are currently running for president. Biden is expected to announce in the coming months that he’s running for re-election, and it’s highly unlikely that most of those potential candidates would challenge him in a Democratic primary. Should Biden decide not to run again, that would almost certainly change the picture, but it’s not looking that way currently. 

That goes for Buttigieg specifically, who is a sitting member of Biden’s cabinet and would have to resign, likely very soon, should he choose to run for president in 2024. There are no indications that he has any plans to do so. 

Run, Pete, Run? 

Even so, there is some support for a Buttigieg candidacy, including some endorsement from syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, who wrote a column this week asking “Why not Pete Buttigieg?” 

“This writer is agnostic on whether Biden should try for a second term. He’s up there on age and has slowed down but is getting the job done, and well,” she wrote of the Treasury Secretary.  “However, she is a believer in the strong pull of Buttigieg as a younger Democratic alternative — as a pragmatic solver of problems. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg comes from the middle of America. He knows how to talk to the middle of America, and unlike the Democratic celebrities on the coasts, he wants to.”

She also suggested an alternative path. 

“Like Biden, Buttigieg connects with voters. He could be the Democrats’ presidential candidate. Or, as a replacement for not-much-loved Vice President Kamala Harris, he could strengthen Biden’s quest for a second term.”

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Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.