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Pete Buttigieg Wants to Be President and Might Have a Plan to Get There

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.

No one doubts that Pete Buttigieg has his sights set on positions “higher” than Transportation Secretary. Buttigieg oozes political ambition.

But Buttigieg seems to be content with his position for the moment; Pete Buttigieg said recently that he doesn’t intend to depart Biden’s Cabinet to run for Michigan’s open Senate seat.

Whatever Buttigieg does or does not do – it is all carefully calibrated towards advancing, higher and higher up the political ladder.

So, if Buttigieg intends to stay put for the moment,it is not because he loves the job or because he feels a sense of loyalty to the Biden administration – but because Buttigieg believes staying put offers his best bet to advance. As in someday becoming president of the United States. 

“I love this job and I feel like we’re right in the middle of the action,” Buttigieg said, adding that he serves “at the pleasure of the president for the time being.”

Buttigieg continued: “This is a job that I think is the best job in the federal government. It’s been very challenging dealing with a lot of issues, especially COVID-related issues that affect everything from container shipping to airline cancellations. But also, there’s not been a better time for transportation in – I would argue in our lifetime, because we have this historical bipartisan infrastructure law.”

I’ve got a feeling Pete Buttigieg does not think Transportation Secretary is the best job in the federal government; I suspect Pete Buttigieg believes president is the best job in the federal government.

But regardless, Buttigieg looks like he’s going to stick with his current gig for the time being.

Pete Buttigieg and his DOT Track Record

Buttigieg’s tenure as Transportation Secretary has not been all smooth sailing.

Recently, Pete Buttigieg weathered criticisms for his handling of the Southwest Airlines cancellations fiasco.

Buttigieg had been pressured, in the Fall of 2022, to impose disincentivizing penalties against airlines for avoidable cancellations.

Buttigieg declined.

And during the December holiday rush, Southwest cancelled upwards of half their scheduled flights – stranding thousands of travelers.

Buttigieg took some of the heat – for failing to put measures in place to prevent such a cancellation spree.

Southwest troubles aside, Pete Buttigieg is perhaps the most powerful Transportation Secretary ever.


Well, in part, President Joe Biden has taken a liking to Buttigieg, offering mentorship and alliance. Presidents are not usually grooming Transportation Secretaries for higher office. And, in large part, because of the infrastructure law.

While most of the transportation money in the infrastructure law went to the states, $2 billion went to Buttigieg’s DOT – giving Buttigieg broad discretion to wield money that was “at the core of the administration’s efforts to rebuild the country.”

How the new infrastructure law, which was designed to give “huge sums to bridges and highways while setting the nation on a path to widespread electric car usage, better passenger rail service, more reliable buses and safer routes for walking and cycling,” plays out, will be largely up to Pete Buttigieg.

No wonder he’s willing to stick around. Michigan senators don’t have that type of discretion or impact – even if the Senate is a more likely stepping stone to the presidency than the DOT.

But, to Buttigieg’s credit, he launched a viable presidential campaign from the mayorship of South Bend, Indiana. He actually won the Iowa caucuses.

So, despite Buttigieg’s flaws (which I’ve written about several times), it’s worth acknowledging he does have some political talent, and he will be able to use the DOT to get where he needs to go.

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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.

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Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.