Before a crowd of adoring supporters in South Bend who braved the rain to hear him speak, Pete Buttigieg made his 2020 presidential campaign official by declaring he’d pursue the Democratic nomination to run for the White House.
“I’m here to join you to make a little news,” Buttigieg said. “My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I am proud son of South Bend, Ind., and I am running for president of the United States.”
Previously, the South Bend mayor had formed an exploratory committee for a possible presidential run, but hadn’t yet declared a candidacy. His announcement changed that, making his campaign official.
The crowd responded to Buttigieg’s announcement with roaring applause, chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A” as they waived American flags.
A key component of Buttigieg’s was the economic recovery of South Bend under his watch as mayor after stagnation following the loss of manufacturing — a situation with which many cities in the Midwest are familiar.
More people are moving into South Bend than we’ve seen in a generation,” Buttigieg said. “Thousands of new jobs have been added in our area, and billions in investment. There’s a long way for us to go. Life here is far from perfect. But we’ve changed our trajectory, and shown a path forward for communities like ours.”
Touting the reinvigoration of his city under new economy, Buttigieg — without ever mentioning President Trump by name — also criticized the American Dream can be restored by seeking to go back to the past under a “Make America Great Again” mentality.
“Because there is a myth being sold to industrial and rural communities: the myth that we can stop the clock and turn it back,” Buttigieg said. “It comes from people who think the only way to reach communities like ours is through resentment and nostalgia, selling an impossible promise of returning to a bygone era that was never as great as advertised to begin with. The problem is, they’re telling us to look for greatness in all the wrong places.”
Policy items Buttigieg mentioned were ensuring climate security, abolishing the Electoral College, preserving the right to abortion, ensuring access to health care and confronting a growing threat of white nationalism.
At one point, Buttigieg invoked his inner Bill Clinton (and crticized him) by disparaging the Reagan economic policies of supply-side economics he says were embraced by both Republican and Democrats.
“That era, too, is now over,” Buttigieg said.
But much of Buttigieg’s speech was deeply personal. He told the story of his immigrant father who died last year after a battle with cancer, his mother who needed heart surgery as well as his personal story of accepting his sexual orientation.
Buttigieg referenced about the struggles of his youth — in terms of his sexual orientation and intellectual curiosity — when he said the only time he’d go back to the past was 20 years ago to allay the fears of his youthful self.
The candidate said he tell his younger self he’d be “all right” and “one rainy April day, before he even turns forty, he’ll wake up to headlines about whether he’s rising too quickly as he becomes a top-tier contender for the American presidency, and to tell him that on that day he announces his campaign for president, he’ll do it with his husband looking on.”
Prior to his speech, campaign staffers warmed up the crowd at the rally with a chant holding up three separate signs guiding attendees in saying Buttigieg’s often mispronounced name: “Boot-Edge-Edge.”
Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton, Ohio, heaped praise on Buttigieg during the rally in a speech explaining her support for her fellow mayor.
“He’s someone who’s both a great friend to me, someone who is a compassionate leader for everyday people who have elected him to office, he is the smartest person I know and he is deeply committed to serving our country,” Whaley said.
Whaley concluded with a zinger about the current occupant of the White House that generated significant applause from rally attendants.
“Folks, in short, he’s the polar opposite in every way to Donald Trump,” Whaley said.
Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, was in South Bend for the announcement and said in a statement Buttigieg “shattered a lavender ceiling once thought unbreakable, becoming the first openly LGBTQ Democratic presidential candidate in American history and our first real shot at the Oval Office.”
“There is enormous power in an openly gay presidential candidate stumping at town halls in Iowa and speaking to Americans from the presidential debate stage – it changes perceptions of our community and raises the bar for candidates who seek LGBTQ support,” Parker said.
A Victory Fund spokesperson said the organization has not yet endorsed the candidate, but “we recognize the power of this moment for our community and have been working with his team quite closely.”
The newly official candidate — who was unheard of when he started exploring a presidential run at the start of the year — has enjoyed a size boost in the polls in race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Dazzling many supporters with his demeanor and skill at answering questions, Buttigieg also has a captivating personal story as an openly gay mayor, Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar and Afghanistan war veteran.
A Monmouth University poll published on Thursday found Buttigieg was in third place in Iowa with nine percent support behind Joseph Biden and Bernie Sanders, who polled at 27 percent and 16 percent respectively. Following Buttigieg was Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker.
In New Hampshire, Buttigieg is also running in third place. Biden had 23 percent support and Sanders had 16 percent, but Buttigieg followed at 11 percent support.
Parker said Buttigieg’s “meteoric rise is most notable for the support he’s receiving from diverse groups of voters.”
“There are enormous minefields and hurdles to running as an openly LGBTQ candidate, and so far, Mayor Pete has gracefully leapt over them on the world’s largest political stage,” Parker said. “He’s the real deal.”
After Buttigieg concluded his speech, his spouse, Chasten Buttigieg, joined him on the stage, where the two had a quick smooch and embraced as the crowd cheered — but not before the candidate offered encouraging words to his audience.
“If you and I rise together to meet this moment, one day they will write histories, not just about one campaign or one presidency but about the era that began here today in this building where past, present, and future meet, right here this chilly day in South Bend,” Buttigieg said.