Buttigieg’s strength in Iowa is a result of demographics and his ability to pitch policy ideas.
Throughout the last few months, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been slowly closing in on a strong showing in the Iowa Caucus. According to FiveThirtyEight, a website that provides poll analysis, Buttigieg is currently trailing only Former Vice President Joe Biden in the polls for the first contest of the Democratic Primary. After first breaking into double digits in New Hampshire in November 2019, Pete has been on a steady upwards trajectory and is poised to make significant gains before the Feb. 3 Iowa Caucus.
Buttigieg has outlasted several promising candidates such as Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, despite his questionable political pedigree and credentials. Although Vice President Biden could maintain his lead, the trajectory of Pete’s popularity as well as a strong showing in the latest debate may provide the boost needed to steal a victory.
Most people primarily know Buttigieg as the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. In the infancy of his campaign, his status as the only openly gay candidate, as well as his stint military service, set him apart. He entered the race as a dark horse candidate, but he was expected to become an eventual rising star for the party especially following Beto O’Rourke’s stunning campaign collapse. However, Buttigieg has somehow remained within the top five for many prospective Democratic voters, and his campaign has maintained a promising presence during the past few months.
After spending a significant amount of time on the periphery of the primary, Buttigieg’s campaign has outlasted a number of contenders. This, combined with the advantageous demographics (read: primarily white) in Iowa and New Hampshire, could allow his campaign to enjoy a much longer shelf life than anyone expected.
Mayor Pete’s ability to survive so far has been a result of his ability to choose his battles. In the most recent Democratic Primary Debate on Jan. 14, Buttigieg received a considerable amount of time explaining policy matters – which most voters tend to gloss over or tune out – in a straightforward and understandable way.
Although in previous debates, Pete had attempted some verbal takedowns and rhetorical jabs, he never quite connected with anyone of note. These attempts fell flat as Pete sought to mimic the success of Kamala Harris in her dressing down of Joe Biden in an earlier debate. Instead, Pete has begun to change gears. The result has been clear, concise explanations and the shoring up of subjects on which he had previously been vulnerable, such as foreign policy. This “adult-in-the-room” attitude is especially powerful in contrast to the unhinged tweetstorms of President Donald Trump, which could potentially increase its appeal.
For Buttigieg’s campaign, Iowa is a must-win race. Iowa is extremely welcoming to him both demographically and politically, and these factors directly cost Kamala Harris and Cory Booker their campaigns. In order to convince the wider population of his electability, Pete must continue his tactic of projecting a calm presence while on the campaign trail. If the trend continues and Joe Biden continues his tendency to say outrageous things, Buttigieg’s campaign could get a vital boost that carries him further in the race than anyone imagined.