Has the Pete Buttigieg Hype Peaked?

Elections
Pete Buttigieg speaks during a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge, Iowa, April 16, 2019. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

Did the Buttigieg hype hit its peak already?

Yes, Pete Buttigieg and his husband are on the cover of Time this week. But since Joe Biden’s formal entry into the race, the South Bend mayor’s standing in the polls has been pretty tepid — 8 percent in The Hill/HarrisX, 6 percent in the Morning Consult survey, and just 2 percent in the Harvard Harris poll.

Back in April, Quinnipiac had Buttigieg at 10 percent, CNN had him at 7 percent, and Emerson had him at 9 percent. That’s not a huge drop, but it suggests Buttigeig’s surprising early momentum has slowed. Also . . . he didn’t have that far to drop!

One also has to wonder how well the mayor of a small heavily Democratic city will persevere in the rough-and-tumble of a hard-fought campaign. The one time Buttigieg ran statewide, he was demolished by Richard Mourdock — admittedly, in a pretty Republican state and in a good year for the GOP. The parody interview of Buttgieg posted in McSweeney’s probably offers a good sense of how the other campaigns see him: “I am evasive in seven different languages . . .  If I may, I’d like to speak to that very specific issue with a few glittering generalities: Freedom. Democracy. Bridges.”

Buttigieg offers one of the thinnest resumes in terms of government service but otherwise his experience glows: Harvard, Oxford, McKinsey Consulting, U.S. Naval Reserves. It may very well be that the well-educated progressive folks who cover campaigns for big-name media institutions are the kinds of people who are most impressed by the Buttigieg resume. They were valedictorians and class presidents (or aspired to be), and so was he! They went to Ivy League schools, and so did he! They’re fairly young and ambitious, and so is he!

But other candidates with sterling resumes have proven to be underwhelming when it came to connecting with voters. Bobby Jindal double-majored in biology and public policy at Brown, studied as a Rhodes Scholar, ran the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals at age 24, was president of the University of Louisiana system, was an assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was a two-term governor. In 2016, GOP primary voters barely gave him a first look, never mind a second. In the 2012 GOP primary, Jon Huntsman had a degree in from the University of Pennsylvania, worked in Reagan’s White House, was elected and reelected governor of Utah, and served as deputy U.S. trade representative, and the U.S. ambassador to Singapore, Indonesia, and China. Voters yawned.

Back in 2008, Bill Richardson was a seven-term U.S. House member, Deputy Majority Whip, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Secretary of Energy, and two-term governor of New Mexico. Democratic primary voters weren’t interested.

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