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Pete-er Out? Buttigieg Faces Falling Poll Numbers, Protests Ahead Of Iowa Caucus
Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg greets people during a campaign event in the The Skate Pit on December 29, 2019 in Knoxville, Iowa
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg looked to be among the frontrunners for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination for some time, but recent polls — and recent protests — seem to indicate the “moderate” Millennial upstart candidate is falling out of favor with early primary voters.

Until late last week, Buttigieg’s popularity was on the upswing after a series of campaign revisions that saw him drop more progressive stances for more moderate ones, perhaps out of hope that Democratic voters, dissatisfied with former Vice President Joe Biden as the only workable alternative to Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would select him as a viable alternative.

Buttigieg also built a considerable operation in Iowa, targeting cities with recent population growth for campaign offices in the hopes of driving new, more liberal voters to the Iowa caucuses, and securing an early win — or at least an early strong showing.

But there are signs that the Buttigieg bubble has burst. According to the Des Moines Register, which releases the most reliable polling for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus, Buttigieg is now slipping in the polls as Sanders surges among young voters with an eye to a more progressive future.

“Right behind Sanders is fellow progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at 17 percent, followed by Buttigieg, at 16 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden at 15 percent,” according to NBC News. “It’s a nine percentage points drop for Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, from the first-place 25 percent support he registered in the November Des Moines Register poll. And it’s a weak showing for Biden, who remains the leader in most national polls.”

There’s a saving grace for Buttigieg: all of the candidates polled fall within a few points of one another, leaving their actual positions, relative to other candidates up in the air. But there’s no denying that a drop, particularly at this stage of the game, less than a month out of the first primaries, signals that a strong showing for Buttigieg is unlikely.

And then there’s the protesters.

Over the weekend, Buttigieg was dogged by Black Lives Matter, who disrupted one of his major events, shouting “anti-black, anti-poor,” as Buttigieg tried to speak at a rally.


This is the second such disruption. Black Lives Matter derailed a Buttigieg campaign event in California late last week, upending the candidate’s visit to a homeless shelter in the notoriously crime-ridden Los Angeles neighborhood, Watts, per the Los Angeles Times.

Black Lives Matter’s ire stems from Buttigieg’s time as South Bend mayor, how he handled the homelessness crisis in his own city (the same crisis he was addressing in Watts), and how he handled the police-involved shooting of Eric Logan, a young black man from South Bend shot by a white cop.

“Major incidents involving race and the police are nearly an annual occurrence in the city of about 100,000. Soon after he was elected in 2011, Buttigieg faced strong criticism for demoting the city’s first black police chief, Darryl Boykins, after learning of a federal investigation into the department allegedly illegally recording officers’ phone calls. The calls revealed white officers using racial slurs, some of which were directed at Boykins,” the Guardian reported last year, citing protesters’ concerns.

This weekend’s protesters say they were bankrolled by an “outside organization,” which indicates Buttigieg is now a target, probably of his more progressive opponents, including Sanders (or at least Sanders’ supporters). If he doesn’t respond adequately, that could mean a deeper hole going into the Iowa caucus, which takes place on February 2nd.

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