Mayor Pete Buttigieg is seeing a bit of a boost, partly due to sympathetic media coverage and partly due to the fact he’s a pretty solid retail politician.
Part of Buttigieg’s appeal may be that he can portray himself as outside the traditional political system, and a fresh face as a red state mayor who is touting some reformist ideas like filibuster reform.
But during the most pivotal chance to change the orientation of the Democratic Party — the 2016 primary — Buttigieg played it safe and conventional, swooping in to endorse Clinton on the cusp of the Indiana primary, which Clinton barely defeated Sanders in.
As I mentioned earlier, Buttigieg is a competent politician. So he’s spent his campaign for the Democratic nomination so far distancing himself from Clinton.
“Donald Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy,” Buttigieg says. “At least he didn’t go around saying that America was already great, like Hillary did.” — @PeteButtigieg https://t.co/5alThtNbw9
— The Washington Post Magazine (@wpmagazine) January 27, 2019
Clinton was already using the rhetoric Mayor Pete criticized as early as February 2016, four months prior to when Buttigieg decided to endorse her over the populist Sanders.
This suggests that Buttigieg either endorsed a candidate whose messaging he found to be ineffective, or that he had some other reason to endorse her. But it certainly suggests that he wasn’t thinking very outside the box in 2016.
Update: It’s true that Clinton narrowly lost the popular vote in Indiana, but she won in delegates, based on pledged vs. unpledged. Sanders would have won the state with a higher popular vote.