What happens when none of the top contenders for your party’s 2020 nomination seem likely to build a coalition strong enough to win? If you’re the Democrats, you might just get … creative.
According to reports from Iowa, Democratic rising star and South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg is looking like a reasonable option to secure the 2020 Democratic nomination amid concerns that none of the three frontrunners — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — can put together the kind of coalition of Democratic voters necessary to defeat President Donald Trump.
Enter Buttigieg, Iowa Starting Line says.
“[T]here’s real reason to think Pete Buttigieg could yet win this nomination outright,” the political magazine, based in one of the first primary states. “One such rather plausible scenario is starting to develop right before our eyes. It starts, as these things so often do, in Iowa.”
The theory goes that Buttigieg, who is pulling into a strong third place in Iowa (he’s now easily clearing 10% and, in some cases, is well into the double digits in polls) and jumping up nationally, could be a real option if the race for the Democratic nomination lasts longer than a few early primaries.
“If he can win in areas like [Des Moines, Iowa], then theoretically he can challenge Joe Biden for dominance among that part of the Democratic ideological spectrum,” pollster John Couvillon told the Washington Examiner. “While a lot of the Democrats are fighting over the progressive wing, the moderate wing has not been much fought over, and that is what I think Buttigieg is trying to do, and Dallas County is ground zero for that effort.”
In order to grab the nomination, Buttigieg has to make a strong showing in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, or Nevada. Doing so could earn him the backing of undecided voters and hedging donors, building up his already substantial war chest and putting him among the frontrunners.
He’s already in a good position. Buttigieg has the benefit of being viewed as a “moderate” by a number of Democratic demographics — and, in particular, the Democratic elite, who have expressed few reservations about the openly gay midwestern mayor. He competes well nationally, rakes in the cash, and, perhaps best of all, he’s not Biden and Warren, two intensely controversial Democratic figures.
That, of course, means Buttigieg benefits only if both Biden and Warren fail — something that seems unlikely given the current national polls — and assuming the Democratic Party has absolutely no intention of nominating Bernie Sanders. The last one is likely a given, and Biden is clearly on a downward trajectory, but in recent days, the threads at the edge of Warren’s campaign have also begun unraveling.
Warren is making some Democratic bigwigs nervous already, with an announcement that she will forgo donations from corporations, banks, the technology sector, and SuperPACs, and won’t attend any high-dollar fundraisers for her own presidential campaign. That may be popular among voters, but it won’t be popular among Democrats who need to fund the party, especially given that the presidential nominee shares his or her take with the national committee.
Her plan also comes with a very big asterisk, as the New Republic points out. Warren has no trouble attending events for the Democratic Party, where the party is required to split their take with her. As long as she’s not headlining, her ironclad ethics are somewhat … flexible. That’s not very popular with progressives, who see Sanders as their only “pure” route to power and in opposite circles, on Wall Street and elsewhere, it’s motivating typically Democratic donors to direct their funds elsewhere, often to Buttigieg, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Things are looking so grim that, last week, big money Democratic donors were reportedly asking the party if there was anyone else available to run in 2020, according to the New York Times. Funders reportedly floated names like Michelle Obama, Sherrod Brown, and even Hillary Clinton.
Buttigieg appears to be taking advantage of the opportunity. Last week, he challenged both Sanders and Warren on their expensive Medicare for All plans, and reports are that Buttigieg is moving in on the African American voter community, which has, until now, been leaning towards Joe Biden. He’s also opened offices in Iowa’s Dallas County, an exploding mid-Iowa community, where he’ll be making a play for potential caucus-goers who aren’t yet registered.