Iowans Find Emotional Refuge In Pete Buttigieg

Living in a country with a president who thrives on division can be emotionally taxing for Americans seeking a better way forward.

That was the message several voters conveyed over two days of Pete Buttigieg campaign events last week in Southeast Iowa.

“This helps,” said Joan Crowe, of rural Lee County, describing the despair and hopelessness she has felt during President Donald Trump’s administration. “Listening to people talk wisely and kindly, and noticing how many are here a whole year and two-three months before we will vote.”

Crowe was awaiting Buttigieg’s arrival at a park along the Mississippi River in Keokuk. It was the third event of the day for Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Buttigieg’s seven events across seven Southeast Iowa counties last week drew more than 2,300 people, according to the campaign. Many locals said it was some of the largest turnouts for a Democratic visit they’d seen since the 2008 caucus cycle.

Starting Line attended events in Keokuk, Burlington and Fairfield, each stop drawing hundreds of people, day or night.

Crowe, who was seeing Buttigieg for the first time in-person, described him as “impressively intelligent” and “kind to people.”

Those descriptions would prove commonplace among voters seeing the 37-year-old presidential candidate for the first time, many of whom follow him in the news and watched him on the debate stage.

“He seems really decent,” said Tim Hites, of Warsaw, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from Keokuk. “That’s the thing I get from him, he seems like he’s very decent and intelligent. I just find it refreshing to hear from a politician who can speak intelligently.”

While Buttigieg leans into the more humble aspects of his background — he lives in the same South Bend neighborhood where he grew up; he served as a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve and deployed to Afghanistan — the mayor also is a graduate of Harvard University and a Rhodes Scholar.

Support for Buttigieg in Iowa has increased significantly since he officially entered the field in April as the mayor of a mid-size, Midwestern city. The Starting Line-Change Research poll last week put him in a solid fourth place position with 13%.

Despite large crowds, ballooning to 500 in Burlington and Fairfield, Buttigieg spent the majority of his time taking questions from the audience.

The short amount of time dedicated to his stump speech was largely absent of some Democrats favorite talking point: President Trump.

On the topic of the president, he said in Fairfield: “I represent, I’m pretty sure, the opposite of the current president. And I will try to set a different strategy that’s not about him. Don’t get me wrong, when he lies or acts in a racist fashion, we’ve got to say something about it. We got to confront him, put him in his place. But, this election isn’t about him, it’s about you. And the more we’re talking about him, the less we’re talking about you.”

Tom Kroupa, of Fairfield, said he was still in the “shopping” phase of the Democratic primary — he also supports Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — but also “really liked” what he heard from Buttigieg as he spoke in the town square.

“Friendly, open, bright — he’s real bright,” said Kroupa, as Buttigieg stuck around to greet those who lined up to talk to him and get their picture taken.

“He’s not angry and pissed off like orange head,” he added, referring to the president.

Several Fairfield voters compared Buttigieg’s event at the downtown park to that of former president Barack Obama, who commanded a similarly large crowd when he campaigned there in 2007. Obama’s crowd was larger, the voters recalled, but no one other than Buttigieg has come within striking distance.

“I really like Mayor Pete,” said Lisa West, as she packed up her lawn chair after the Fairfield event. “He just stands for the values that we have, which is people first, not money, getting corporate interests out of government — all the basics. We need to take our country back. As a people, we need to be more active in the political structure, and he sounds like somebody who knows that.”

Buttigieg’s resistance to dwelling on Trump appealed to West and her husband, John.

“You got to restrain yourself from giving him the attention that he is seeking,” said John West, of Fairfield. “There’s no question we got to get him out of there, but if you put too much focus on the negative and not the positive and the policies and plans that you’re going to do, it’s not going to work.”

“I love that he said that,” Lisa West recalled, of Buttigieg’s focus on voters, not Trump. “Trump thrives on hate, so when we react to him as Democrats because we just can’t believe some of the stuff he’s doing, it just feeds him. We need to just cut that out, refocus away from him and focus on the issues that are important to us.”

In Burlington, an important issue to Laurel Mark, a retired physician, was health care.

“Even though my heart may be with a Medicare For All program, I’m concerned about pushing people away out of fear,” said Mark. “That’s what I see in my patients. Nobody loves their insurance company, but they’re scared to death that they will go bankrupt.

“I’m intrigued by the idea of allowing people to feel like they’ve made their own choice,” Mark said, referring to Buttigieg’s “Medicare For All Who Want It” approach. “I think he’s right that they will choose the better option, the more affordable option.”

Mark was undecided on who to support in the Democratic primary, but said she came to Buttigieg’s event specifically to see him in-person.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time watching a lot of candidates online, but he’s the one who seems to me to speak most directly to my heart, so I wanted to see him in person.”

By the end of the night, Mark appeared to have moved closer to Buttigieg’s corner.

“I would have to say, every time I look at somebody else I feel like, they’re great. He’s better.”


By Elizabeth Meyer
Photo by Lisa Schmitz
Posted 8/19/19

16 Comments on "Iowans Find Emotional Refuge In Pete Buttigieg"

  • I have not met Pete, but what I know of him is he is decent and intelligent and likable. That appeals to me most in picking a President. We are lucky to have several Democratic candidates that fit that description but I have to eliminate any candidate that will be over age 66 when they are inaugurated. From there other reasons affect my choice. I cannot get to a caucus, so I have no say in Iowa in choosing a candidate so I am supporting, in no particular order, Pete and Tom Steyer.

    • I am with you on the age thing – although Warren doesn’t act her age at all. Buttigieg is my favorite as well but any of them would be better than Cheeto man.

  • I read no further than the statement of Trump dividing America. Media is responsible for their twist of the truth. When Americans wake up towards you it over.

    • The media doesn’t need to twist anything, just point the camera and have the mic on, He does it himself.

    • When Trump posts on Twitter, he *is* the media. Social media. And he has full control of what he posts. It’s his fault. How can he blame the traditional media sources when he’s over on Twitter making absurd accusations and being verbally abusive to anyone who has a different point of view? This is all on him.

      But, enough about him. Love, love, love, Buttigieg.

    • By not opening your mind to the rest of the article, you proved the point that Trump is dividing America.

  • I have tremendous respect for Pete Buttigieg as a human being who possesses compassion, empathy, a sense of community, resect for human life, consideration for others, and an extremely intelligent outlook on life and how government and people can work together with other countries, cultures, and races to create a more harmonious life on this planet.

  • I have heard Pete in person, and he truly is inspiring. His general belief is that we can’t make America great again – it’s always been great, but we can strive to be better. Everything he stands for is on his site peteforamericadotcom. All issues are addressed in detail, and they are clearly laid out. If you live in Iowa, we must care about what’s happening in our rural areas. So if you only read one platform, read “A Commitment to America’s Heartland”. Whether or not you agree with his ideas, I think you will be impressed with the thoughtful, realistic plans he puts puts forth.

  • I saw Mayor Pete yesterday in a smaller venue in a small rural city in South Carolina near where I live. I had seen on the debate stage but wanted to hear more without interruptions from “moderators.” He only met with us for about 40 minutes, but it was enough to put him in front as far as I am concerned. He is a refreshing change. I left feeling better about my country, which I had not been liking very much in the past several month.

    If you have not heard him, please do if you get a chance. He is building bridges where the current man in the WH only draws lines in the sand.

  • I’ve been fortunate to call him my Mayor for the eight years he’s been in office and I’m so glad people are getting to know him. He truly is kind and decent and always willing to say hello when you see him out and about in town. I will miss having him as Mayor but we always knew he was destined for bigger things. In fact, the first time I met him was his initial run for Mayor. He was at a Firefighter’s Blues Festival, walking around and saying hello to people. My husband and I got to chat with him for a bit and when Pete moved on, I turned to my husband and said, “Wow. We need to keep an eye on him because he’s gonna be President one day!” We love Mayor Pete!

  • I jumped into the deep end of the pool after hearing Pete in person after studying him up before and after. I signed up as a campaign host because I live at ground zero in NH. I have never done anything like this before but I am so convicted that he is who we need for our country right now.

  • Pete is our best choice for an intelligent, articulate, compassionate, thoughtful person to gather the reins and put us back on a path towards unity, as Americans, again. It’s ok to reach across the isle. Go Pete, you have my vote.

  • I’ve been impressed with Mayor Pete since he first announced his run for the Presidency. He is absolutely the best candidate as far as I’m concerned.

    I am worried, though, because of the lack of support from the African-American community. I feel that he’s doing the right things to pull together that population, but the problems with the minority community in South Bend, namely fueled by innuendos and falsehoods, are causing problems. I really hope that they can turn that problem around.

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