The rise of Pete Buttigieg has been fairly astonishing to behold. It’s an entirely media-driven phenomenon, but then again the media can chauffeur a guy straight into the White House. As we’ve seen.
New polls have Mayor Pete in third place in both Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s a pretty distant third, but when you consider that Buttigieg was completely unknown until ten seconds ago, and recall the years of adoring media attention given Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, not to mention a ton of favorable coverage of Kamala Harris and nearly a year of nonstop propagandizing for Beto O’Rourke that would embarrass Kim Jong-un’s press chief, it’s astonishing that Buttigieg is even in the same group as these other candidates, much less ahead of them (by very small margins in some cases). (Oh, and Kirsten Gillibrand, your candidacy is already over. You’re at, or close to, zero. This is as good as it gets for you. Enjoy your lovely parting gifts.)
These last couple of weeks the media have been enacting the Distracted Boyfriend meme, swiveling their collective head from previous It Boy Beto to the new coolness, Buttigieg. Politico’s acerbic media critic Jack Shafer ponders the question of what made the media dump Pete for Beto: “Think of Buttigieg as a newborn just delivered to his newsroom parents, his every grin and wink and grimace worthy of endless analysis and discussion, and you begin to fathom the press corps’ fascination with him.”
Buttigieg is fresh, and that counts among members of the media who may have gotten just a teensy-weensy bit fatigued with all the fawning over Beto. And Buttigieg is impressive in some ways. For a start, he’s obviously really bright. That he taught himself Norwegian is more impressive than anything Barack Obama has ever accomplished (except win elections, the only thing Obama is good at, unless you count giving speeches). And Buttigieg presents well and gives a good speech. Full of vacuous platitudes, but effective. If Beto is Fauxbama, Pete may be 2.Obama.
I have to wonder, though, whether the media feels not just excited by Buttigieg but let down by Beto O’Rourke. O’Rourke has made so many carelessly dumb and self-defeating statements — he called for tearing down existing border walls, he said he wasn’t sure the Constitution still worked, he called Benjamin Netanyahu a racist, he backed reparations for slavery, he invoked the Third Reich in discussing President Trump — that he evidently lacks the focus and discipline it takes to go all the way. The media may be turning on Beto because they suspect he’s a dim bulb who will say any damn thing the crowd around him wants him to say. If the media think that, by the way, the media are correct.