What to Know
A Buttigieg spokesman said Sunday’s event is a “special announcement” when asked if the mayor will declare he’s running for president
Buttigieg’s $7 million fundraising haul in the first quarter of the year is more than Sens. Warren, Klobuchar and Booker brought in
NBC 5 will livestream the announcement when it commences around 1 p.m. CT*
Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially joins the crowded field of Democrats running for president Sunday as he announced his bid at a rally in his home town of South Bend, Indiana.
The 37-year-old who likes to go by “Mayor Pete” due to his hard-to-pronounce last name (it’s “boot-edge-edge”) first made national headlines eight years ago as the youngest mayor of a mid-sized U.S. city or larger. Buttigieg would achieve a number of firsts if his longshot campaign succeeds: first openly gay president, first millennial president, first mayor to leap directly to the White House. He’d be the youngest commander in chief, too.
Buttigieg has countered concerns about his youth and inexperience in national politics with confidence that Americans want generational change and pride in his two terms as mayor. He backed that up when he reported a $7 million fundraising haul in the first quarter of the year, more than some U.S. senators running for president managed.
“It’s clear people want a new direction for America, but it’s not just about winning an election, it’s about winning an era,” he said in a video announcing Sunday’s event. “If you’re ready to make our politics more honest, to fix our democracy, to defend racial justice, to look to the future, to bring generations together, join us.”
Asked whether Buttigieg intends to declare he’s running at the event, a spokesman only said Wednesday that it’s a “special announcement.”
If it seems like Buttigieg has already been campaigning for months, that’s because he’s been very publicly testing the waters. Buttigieg formed a presidential exploratory committee in January, visited some key primary states like Iowa and South Carolina and held a nationally televised town hall.
But a candidate must actually declare they’re running for president to take part in certain political activities, including advertising about their candidacy or trying to officially qualify for the ballot. At a campaign event in Las Vegas Monday, Buttigieg made it sound he was ready: “I’m very pleased to let you know that we’re going to be making some big news this Sunday.”
The mayor has already benefited from other moments on the national stage in this election cycle.
Many viewers hailed Buttigieg’s thoughtfulness and clarity at his CNN town hall in March. Clips of his comments ricochetted across news shows and social media. Soon afterward, he came third among Democrats in a poll in Iowa and has stayed in the middle of the pack in most polls since. Within a week of the town hall, Buttigieg said he’d received donations from 65,000 people, the amount needed to qualify for the Democratic debates.
The Rhodes scholar and veteran of the war in Afghanistan — he deployed as a naval reserve intelligence officer — has also had other interviews and speeches resonate online. On Sunday, Buttigieg made more headlines when he spoke about his struggles coming to terms with his sexuality during an event at the LGBTQ Victory Fund political action committee in Washington, D.C.
“There were times in my life where, if you had shown me exactly what it was inside me that made me gay, I would have cut it out with a knife,” he said, adding later that marrying his husband has made him a better person.
The $7 million that Buttigieg said he raised in 68 days this year is more than Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said she brought in over a longer period of time. It’s also more than Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota reported, and nearly as much as former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who last year broke the U.S. Senate fundraising record in his failed bid in Texas.
But Buttigieg faces challenges outside his inexperience, including that it will be hard for any Democrat running for president to stand out from all the others. Only former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to declare his intentions, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are considered front-runners at this point, consistently polling above the other candidates.
While Buttigieg touts his youth as an asset, he’s not the only young person vying for the Democratic nomination. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii turned 38 this week and a few others are in their 40s.
Also working against Buttigieg is that, while he was elected and re-elected mayor of South Bend with about 75% of the vote, he lost the other races he’s entered: Indiana state treasurer in 2010, before he was mayor, and the Democratic party’s 2017 race to lead its national committee.
Could he actually win a run for president? Indiana University political science professor Marjorie Hershey, author of the textbook “Party Politics in America,” gave a “qualified yes,” noting that before he was elected president, Barack Obama had a fairly short career in politics, too, and that the large field of Democrats gives room for any one of them to win.
“It’s not impossible” in a field of “about 952 candidates,” Hershey said.
And while Hershey said that “there is certainly a large proportion of the population that would have some real difficulties with a gay presidential candidate,” she also noted that those voters would be unlikely to vote for any Democrat.
Buttigieg said in his video teasing Sunday’s announcement that he’s already taken on the first hurdle: getting people to learn how to pronounce his last name. (Again, “boot-edge-edge” works fine.)