A Morning Consult poll of over 150,000 registered Democrats conducted between March 4th and 10th found that just 1 percent of voters considered Buttigieg their top candidate. A majority — 62 percent — hadn't heard of him.
That may be changing. After appearing at a CNN town hall in which he called Vice President Mike Pence a "cheerleader of the porn star presidency," he was, according to the Indianapolis Star, "the subject of more Google searches during and in the 24 hours after his town hall than were each of three top Democrats: Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris."
Obama strategist David Axelrod tweeted during the televised event that Buttigieg was "crisp, thoughtful and relatable" and would be "a little less of a longshot tomorrow." Following the town hall, according to CNN, Buttigieg raised more than $600,000 from over 22,200 donations within 24 hours.
After Howard Schultz said during a radio appearance that he had spent more time with the military in the past decade than any of the other presidential candidates, Buttigieg fired back, tweeting, "I don't recall seeing any Starbucks over there..."
Schultz later apologized to Buttigieg and candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who served in the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Still, he's going to have to work to stand out in a field that already includes over a dozen candidates — including well-known legislators like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris and superstar newcomer Beto O'Rourke — vying for the Democratic nomination. Several of his opponents have already built impressive war-chests in record time.
But Buttigieg says the crowd is actually an advantage. "I think the more crowded it is, the more room there is for newcomers and underdogs. I think it's not an accident that with so many well-known figures in the mix, still no one has been able to consolidate even a strong plurality."
He also enjoys something many other candidates do not: a record of support from voters at both ends of the political spectrum. "There are a lot of people [in Indiana] who voted for Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Mike Pence and me," he says. "Voters are not organizing all of their thinking along ideological lines."
He's hoping that his experience heading up a city government, rather than coming from a state or federal office, will give him an edge among those voters. Mayors, and those working at the city level, he says, spend so much time focused on problem-solving "we almost don't have enough time to stop and check whether something reads as left or right."
Will voters be willing to do the same? Buttigieg is optimistic.
"I think sometimes, pragmatism actually takes you to a place that might be further out in the ideological space than people think."
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