NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Poll Watch: “Mayor Pete” gaining support with Iowa Democrats

On Sun­day, Emer­son Polling released a poll of like­ly Iowa cau­cus­go­ers, show­ing a large jump in sup­port for Pete Buttigieg, the May­or of South Bend, Indi­ana. The poll – con­duct­ed over the week­end – showed 11% sup­port for Buttigieg, putting him in third place behind Joe Biden (25%) and Bernie Sanders (24%).

In Jan­u­ary, the last time Emer­son polled this group, Buttigieg had 0%. On< March 10th, Buttigieg gained nation­al promi­nence after going viral for blast­ing his fel­low Indi­anan, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence dur­ing a CNN-host­ed town hall.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg cam­paigns in Mer­ri­mack, New Hamp­shire (Pho­to:
Marc Nozell, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

In the days after the event, he received hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in dona­tions to his cam­paign, almost swamp­ing the small team he assem­bled for his run. Buttigieg has already exceed­ed 65,000 indi­vid­ual donors, one of the entry thresh­olds to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic debates.

“May­or Pete,” as he is known to his South Bend con­stituents (the dif­fi­cult-to-pro­nounce name, “Buttigieg” is native to his father’s home, the tiny Mediter­ranean island of Mal­ta) is in many ways an extra­or­di­nary can­di­date.

If he were to win the pres­i­den­cy, he would be the youngest-ever com­man­der-in-chief at thir­ty-nine years (as of the 2021 inau­gu­ra­tion, beat­ing JFK by four years), the first open­ly gay pres­i­dent, and the first vet­er­an of the war in Afghanistan to be pres­i­dent. Buttigieg is also a Har­vard grad­u­ate, a Rhodes schol­ar, flu­ent in mul­ti­ple lan­guages includ­ing Ara­bic and Nor­we­gian, and appar­ent­ly a tal­ent­ed pianist.

Emerson’s poll was not a poll of all vot­ers in the Unit­ed States or even Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers, but focused specif­i­cal­ly on peo­ple like­ly to take part in the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cau­cus. Iowa will be the first state to hold a nom­i­nat­ing event next year.

Iowa is one of the whitest states in the nation, mak­ing it very unrep­re­sen­ta­tive of the increas­ing­ly diverse Demo­c­ra­t­ic base. Its loca­tion in the Mid­west may give Buttigieg – a may­or from Indi­ana – a slight advan­tage over oth­er can­di­dates.

Pro­po­nents of cau­cus­es argue that they help lev­el the play­ing field by allow­ing less­er known insur­gent or “dark horse” can­di­dates an oppor­tu­ni­ty to break through. This school of thought holds that where­as pri­maries can be won with orga­nized mon­ey, win­ning a cau­cus requires orga­niz­ing peo­ple.

Com­pared to a pri­ma­ry, Iowa’s cau­cus sys­tem is extreme­ly com­pli­cat­ed.

Buttigieg’s per­for­mance in the CNN town hall dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ed the opin­ions of polit­i­cal­ly engaged peo­ple. While his pop­u­lar­i­ty shot up among pos­si­ble Iowa cau­cus­go­ers after the town hall, he did­n’t see a cor­re­spond­ing bump in a poll by CNN of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers nation­wide (only 1% sup­port­ed Buttigieg).

How­ev­er, it’s still ear­ly. The Iowa cau­cus­es are a lit­tle more than ten months away.

That gives the affa­ble May­or Pete a lot of time to become famil­iar to the broad­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. While a lot of vot­ers may not know who the South Bend May­or is, he’s charis­mat­ic and has made a favor­able impres­sion with many com­men­ta­tors. That is like­ly to give him access to a larg­er audi­ence through mass media.

For­mer U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Beto O’Rourke has already shown what can be achieved with a savvy social media strat­e­gy; with­in one day of announc­ing his can­di­da­cy, he had amassed more dona­tions than even Bernie Sanders.

May­or Pete shares many traits with Beto O’Rourke.

Both are among the youngest Democ­rats in the field; both have been not­ed for their good looks; both hail from states that Democ­rats have strug­gled in recent­ly; both have gone viral for impas­sioned speech­es decry­ing Trump; and both are known by nick­names their con­stituents gave them (‘Beto’ is a Span­ish diminu­tive for O’Rourke’s giv­en name, Robert).

How­ev­er, it remains to be seen if either O’Rourle or Buttigieg, or any oth­er can­di­date for that mat­ter, can seri­ous­ly com­pete with the two strongest, best-known can­di­dates in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic field – Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.(Biden has not announced, but there’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty he will soon.)

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