In Dubuque on Saturday, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg portrayed himself not as a liberal or a moderate, but as a new type of presidential candidate, fit to face new challenges.
The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., eschewed placement on the left or the middle in his last visit to the area ahead of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Monday, Feb. 3.
“Joe Biden is telling people this is no time to take a risk,” Buttigieg told the crowd of 700 people in the Loras College Fieldhouse. “But the biggest risk we could take would be to go up against a new type of opponent by falling back on the familiar. Senator (Bernie) Sanders is trying to do things we can all agree with, but in a way that feels too often like it’s my way or the highway, like you have to choose between a revolution and the status quo.”
Republican Party of Iowa spokesman Aaron Britt said in an email to the Telegraph Herald on Saturday that Buttigieg’s policies put him further to the left than he let on. He wrote that due to the stances of some other Democratic presidential candidates, “Buttigieg has been forced to adopt out-of-touch positions like taxpayer-funded health care for illegal immigrants and abolishing the Electoral College.”
But Buttigieg said that instead of playing to any edge of the Democratic Party, he was running as the candidate who could make voters at either edge comfortable.
To help paint that picture, he followed two Dubuque college students onto the stage.
Andrew Larion, a student at Clarke University, said he tends to lean more politically conservative but admires Buttigieg’s focus on unity.
“I was behind Pete after the first commercial of his I saw,” he said after the event. “He offers a meet-in-the-middle, unified message.”
Loras College student Estefania Leon said that, as the daughter of immigrants, she is most behind Buttigieg’s immigration policy. But she said he first impressed her with his character, which she believes she saw at an early town hall in Dubuque.
“I liked the way he interacted with the crowd, how he tries to bring people together,” she said.
Buttigieg also played up his mayoral experience, being announced by Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart.
“When you’re a mayor, you eat what you cook,” Buttigieg said. “You don’t just discuss these things in the abstract and vote on them. ... You’ll never hear about a mayor shutting down the government because two parties can’t agree.”
Joe Hail, of Manchester, Iowa, attended the event. He said he was undecided on who he supported but leaning Buttigieg’s way in part because of that executive experience. Joe and his wife, Amy, are both veterans, like Buttigieg, which they also both appreciate.
“He knows what we’ve been through,” Amy said. “When it comes to making that call to go to war, he’s been there and knows what that’s like.”
The most recent Iowa-specific poll, from Monmouth University and released on Tuesday, showed Buttigieg with 16% support among likely Democratic caucus-goers. That put him behind former Vice President Joe Biden, supported by 23%, and Sanders, with 21%. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren garnered 15% and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, 10%. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.