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.

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Pete Buttigieg ends his presidential campaign and will reportedly endorse Joe Biden

On Sun­day, the field of can­di­dates for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion nar­rowed again, as Pete Buttigieg, the for­mer May­or of South Bend, Indi­ana, announced that he was drop­ping out.

“The truth is that the path has nar­rowed to a close, for our can­di­da­cy if not for our cause,” Buttigieg told sup­port­ers in his home town. The may­or talked with both for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden on Sun­day night, and is expect­ed to throw his sup­port behind Biden in the com­ing days.

Pete Butigieg ended his campaign on Sunday

Pete Butigieg end­ed his cam­paign on Sun­day (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Pete Buttigieg’s cam­paign for the pres­i­den­cy was an extra­or­di­nary one in a vari­ety of ways. At the age of thir­ty-eight – and with no expe­ri­ence at a nation­al or even statewide lev­el – America’s first open­ly gay pres­i­den­tial con­tender rose from almost total obscu­ri­ty to the top tier of Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates, jostling for space with gov­er­nors, sen­a­tors, and a for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States.

The youth­ful may­or impressed peo­ple from all over the polit­i­cal spec­trum with his mil­i­tary cre­den­tials (he served as a Navy intel­li­gence offi­cer in Afghanistan) and his obvi­ous intel­lec­tu­al chops; he is a Har­vard grad­u­ate, a Rhodes schol­ar, and speaks eight lan­guages.

He was also able to con­struct a for­mi­da­ble cam­paign team and raise huge sums of mon­ey, an impres­sive feat for a man with such a small nation­al pro­file.

Buttigieg’s cam­paign was able to out­last those of far more like­­ly-seem­ing can­di­dates in an extreme­ly crowd­ed pri­ma­ry field – which includ­ed Montana’s Gov­er­nor Steve Bul­lock, California’s Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris, or Washington’s Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee – and pull off a shock result in the Iowa cau­cus­es, win­ning more del­e­gates than any oth­er can­di­date (although Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont won the pop­u­lar vote), and com­ing a nar­row sec­ond in the New Hamp­shire pri­ma­ry.

How­ev­er, the fol­low­ing two states – Neva­da and South Car­oli­na – set Buttigieg back thanks to a weak­ness that the cam­paign had con­sis­tent­ly strug­gled to address: his lack of pop­u­lar­i­ty among com­mu­ni­ties of col­or.

The issue of race has plagued Buttigieg since the start of his cam­paign, with his may­oral record quick­ly com­ing under scruti­ny for how he dealt with racism in South Bend’s police force. His cam­paign staff didn’t do him any favors by botch­ing the roll­out of “The Dou­glass Plan” – a raft of poli­cies aimed at reduc­ing racial inequal­i­ty – by false­ly claim­ing that a num­ber of promi­nent African Amer­i­can lead­ers had endorsed it, when they had not.

Unlike his rivals – par­tic­u­lar­ly Joe Biden – Buttigieg nev­er had a strong net­work of rela­tion­ships in the black com­mu­ni­ty, but he also seemed indif­fer­ent to pur­su­ing these rela­tion­ships. When crit­i­cized by a black con­stituent in South Bend at a cam­paign event, he told her, “Ma’am, I’m not look­ing for your vote.”

Buttigieg’s per­son­al style put off a lot of poten­tial sup­port­ers. His care­ful­ly craft­ed polit­i­cal per­sona struck many as insin­cere, espe­cial­ly com­pared to rather-less pol­ished styles of both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden that come across as “gen­uine.”

Buttigieg also employed a rhetor­i­cal style that empha­sized lofty sen­ti­ments, rather than speci­fici­ties – avoid­ing con­tro­ver­sial opin­ions to the point where he would actu­al­ly say lit­tle at all, but with a lot of flow­ery lan­guage.

Notably, his with­draw­al speech con­tained the phrase “Some­times the longest way around is real­ly the short­est way home”. In his attempts to push him­self for­ward as a com­pro­mise can­di­date who could both pur­sue pro­gres­sive reform and win over Repub­li­cans, Buttigieg altered his cam­paign’s pol­i­cy planks.

His cen­tral mes­sage of uni­ty was also under­cut by the way he under­mined and belit­tled some of his oppo­nents.

Even his speech on Sun­day con­tained a bare­­ly-con­cealed swipe at Bernie Sanders and his sup­port­ers. Buttigieg argued that Democ­rats need “a broad based agen­da… not one that gets lost in ide­ol­o­gy.”

(As if the neolib­er­al agen­da is some­how non-ide­o­log­i­cal!)

Buttgieg’s belit­tling of oppo­nents was even more pro­nounced on the debate stage. A spat over his lack of expe­ri­ence with Minnesota’s Sen­a­tor Amy Klobuchar devolved into a full-blown feud over the course of sev­er­al debates, derail­ing the debate for both can­di­dates. Buttigieg came off as mean-spir­it­ed in those moments, par­tic­u­lar­ly when he claimed that the Sen­a­tor didn’t know “the first thing” about Mex­i­can pol­i­tics – to which she replied: “Are you call­ing me dumb?”

Although he is out of the race, Buttigieg may still have sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence over who ulti­mate­ly becomes the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee.

In fact, he has already dis­cussed this influ­ence with for­mer Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, accord­ing to those famil­iar with a con­ver­sa­tion on Sun­day.

With less than two days until Super Tues­day, Buttigieg’s sup­port­ers could prove deci­sive in key state pri­maries if they vote as a con­cert­ed bloc.

In Texas, for exam­ple, Buttigieg’s sup­port­ers could give Joe Biden a much need­ed boost by mov­ing into his camp.

Buttigieg’s influ­ence could even extend to the con­ven­tion itself if, as FiveThir­tyEight’s pri­ma­ry mod­el cur­rent­ly pre­dicts, no can­di­date wins an out­right major­i­ty of del­e­gates. That pre­dic­tion, of course, could be obso­lete very soon, as the pres­i­den­tial elec­toral land­scape is rapid­ly chang­ing right now.

Buttigieg is report­ed­ly plan­ning to appear at an event with Joe Biden in Dal­las tonight to endorse Biden, accord­ing to a CNN report. If true, that could help steer Buttigieg’s sup­port­ers (and espe­cial­ly his Texas sup­port­ers) into Biden’s camp.

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