Buttigieg pitches winning a coalition before Iowa caucuses

In his last Johnson County stop of the caucus cycle, former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg pitched himself as a middle ground between the left wing of the Democratic party and his more moderate opponents.

Caleb McCullough, Politics Reporter


In a final Iowa campaign push, presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg hammered on a message of compromise and stressed his ability to win over independents and disaffected Republicans on Sunday. 

About 900 people gathered in a gym at Northwest Junior High School in Coralville nearly 30 hours before the Iowa caucuses to hear the former South Bend, Indiana mayor make his final pitch to caucusgoers. 

Buttigieg positioned himself as a middle ground between the radical rhetoric of the opponents on his left flank and the moderate pragmatism of other Democratic hopefuls.

“Sometimes you may get the message that we’ve got to choose between either a revolution or the status quo,” Buttigieg said. “I think there’s another way.”

Buttigieg said he is uniquely positioned to reach out to independents and “future former Republicans” in the general election. He said his message appeals to a broad majority of Americans that crosses generational, racial, and ideological divides.

“You may see some commercials saying that this is no time to take a risk on somebody new,” Buttigieg said. “But I feel that this is no time to take the risk of confronting a fundamentally new challenge by falling back on the familiar.”

When taking questions from the audience, Buttigieg fielded a question from a former Republican who was planning to caucus as a Democrat for the first time, asking why they should support Buttigieg over former Vice President Joe Biden.

While he noted that he has respect for Biden, Buttigieg said he’s offering a fresh, outsider perspective that has historically been successful for Democrats.

“Every single time my party has won the White House in the last fifty years, we have done it with a candidate who is new in national politics, who is opening the door to a new generation of leadership, and who either doesn’t work in Washington or hasn’t been there very long,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg was welcomed to the stage by Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, Waterloo, Iowa mayor Quentin Hart, and Iowa City mayor Bruce Teague. 

Teague, who was previously on the Iowa steering committee for Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., made an unplanned announcement at the town hall — endorsing Buttigieg before he took the stage. 

“Mayor Pete, when we look at the history of what he’s done at making sure diversity is equal, not just for people of color, but for women,” Teague said. “He looks out for the little people, for the least of us.” 

Chris Huff, 43, a native of South Bend who lives in Coralville, said he was impressed by Buttigieg’s work as mayor of South Bend, saying he dealt with homelessness issues and bolstered jobs in the city.

“I first heard about him when I heard friends back home talking about what he had done,” Huff said. “This new mayor who had really changed things in South Bend, and really had built it up.” 

Huff, who plans to caucus for Buttigieg, said Buttigieg has a unifying voice, and he’s able to build bridges with disaffected voters.

“He can make a strong point without being divisive, without being offensive, but still making strong points,” Huff said. “So I think that really resonates with people.” 

Huff said he’s disheartened by Buttigieg’s recent polling numbers, and he ultimately doesn’t think it’s likely that Buttigieg will win the nomination.

Buttigieg skyrocketed to the top of the November Iowa Poll, but has now settled into third place in Iowa polling averages, according to fivethirtyeight.

A planned final Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll would have shown the state of the race on Saturday, but a complaint from a Buttigieg supporter prompted CNN and the Des Moines Register to cancel the hotly anticipated release of the poll.

The decision came after a Buttigieg supporter informed the campaign that Buttigieg’s name had been left off a question in the survey. Executive editor Carol Hunter said in a statement that the Register was unable to verify whether it was an isolated incident.

Despite his doubts, Huff said he’s hopeful for Buttigieg’s results in Iowa on Monday.

“I think anything can happen in Iowa…and the next couple states,” Huff said. “I’m worried about places like South Carolina, I know there’s been some challenge with certain demographics.”

 

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