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The myth of Mayor Pete

How the South Bend mayor imagined himself into contention

November 20, 2019

3:16 PM

20 November 2019

3:16 PM

What is it about Mayor Pete Buttigieg that’s going to most appeal to the people of Atlanta? Is it the years he spent in consultancy on the McKinsey payroll? Perhaps it’s the large donations he’s secured from a few Silicon Valley donors — because we know how much the new left loves billionaires. And in a heavily African American city, his unspeakable whiteness, Harvard degree and subtle homosexuality should go over a treat.

There are several reasons why Buttigieg shouldn’t be the candidate to beat tonight — he shouldn’t even be a threat. Yet he heads to the Oprah Winfrey stage at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta tonight as the talking-point-in-chief.

The mayor’s recent rise can be attributed to a few factors. There is that tech money, which he’s been pouring into early primary state TV advertising. This in turn leads to an outsized performance in the polls there — it’s one of the areas where money really talks. Just ask Tom Steyer. A St Anselm poll released Tuesday shows him with a 10-point lead over Biden and Warren in New Hampshire. Never mind that it only surveyed 255 people and has a 6.1 percent margin of error — it’s the headlines that count.

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Boot Edge Edge, as his team annoyingly label him to make sure you know who to pronounce his name, has another advantage: masses of glowing soft media coverage. Just look at Pete’s Jimmy Fallon appearance from last month:

‘Last time you were here…we were all trying to figure out how to pronounce your name, and now here you are, you’re a major contender for getting the Democratic nomination,’ says Fallon. ‘Big day today, the polls came out, you’re number three in the polls…in Iowa…what do you attribute your surge in popularity to?’

It doesn’t really matter what Mayor Pete said back — the real answer is ‘Mark Zuckerberg’s cash, Jimmy’. The important thing is, Buttigieg gets referred to as a ‘major contender’ on national television, off the back of a 500-person USA Today poll.

In these early stages — yes, despite this being the fifth primary debate, these are still the early stages — the perception of success gets treated as if it’s the real thing. Bafflingly, this seems to have the supporters of other candidates spooked. At a Bernie event yesterday, Sanders surrogate Nina Turner blasted Buttigieg, saying he ‘can’t take care of the black folks’ in his city.

‘When a black woman says to you over the shooting of a black man in your city … “I’m not going to vote for you for president”, and you say to this black woman, “I didn’t ask you for your vote,” I don’t think you are in any position to be the president of the United States of America.’

Others have grumbled about the fact that only 8,000 people have ever voted for him. Yet by treating Buttigieg like the contender we’re told he is, his opponents further propel his candidacy.

Unlike other candidates backed by big donors, Mayor Pete does have some genuine supporters. In fact the Mayor Pete fandom has cornered Beto O’Rourke’s vital cringe demographic (a decisive Democratic faction these days, arguably more important than the unions). It’s also earned him the ire of socialist TikTok teens. But when perception is everything, what impact can tonight’s debate have? Mayor Pete is quite an effective talker. He seems to enjoy the sound of his own voice, anyway.

The 10 candidates will do battle on a soundstage, with a live audience of 1,000 people, selected by Georgia Democrats and the campaigns. If Mayor Pete finds himself on the receiving end of a candidate pile-on, and the crowd turns on him, the next set of polls could look rather less savory for ‘Mayo Pete. He may not have ‘High Hopes’ for much longer.


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