An Emerging Scenario Where Buttigieg Wins The Nomination

Photo by Julie Fleming

The Midwest city mayor whose name no one could pronounce at the start of this year has come a long way in the Democratic primary.

For a rising star in the party, vastly over-performing expectations in a crowded presidential field would easily be considered a victory in its own way. But there’s real reason to think Pete Buttigieg could yet win this nomination outright.

One such rather plausible scenario is starting to develop right before our eyes. It starts, as these things so often do, in Iowa.

Two polls this past week had good news for Buttigieg in the lead-off caucus state.

A Suffolk University and USA Today poll had the Mayor in third place at 13%. More importantly, he was just five points off Joe Biden’s first-place lead of 18% (there were a lot of undecideds in this survey — 29%) and four behind Elizabeth Warren’s 17%. Bernie Sanders had fallen back to fourth at 9%.

Even better for Buttigieg, an ISU/Civiqs poll put him in second, with 20% saying he was their first choice for the caucus. In this survey, Buttigieg trailed Warren, who was at 28%. Sanders had 18% and Biden was at 12%.

The latter poll isn’t one that usually breaks big news in Iowa politics, but it’s always noteworthy when multiple polls, regardless of their stature, point to the same thing in the same week. And that’s what anyone on the ground can see clearly here: Buttigieg has a ton of energy and enthusiasm on his side in Iowa. And now is just about the time you want to get hot as we enter the final 100-day stretch.

However, winning or over-performing in Iowa is no sure bet to propel you to the nomination outright, especially in this year’s crowded and unpredictable field.

And so that’s where the other piece of the puzzle comes in from the campaign finance reports released earlier this month. In those, Buttigieg, Warren and Sanders were the top three in cash on hand, all over $20 million (Buttigieg $23.3 million, Warren $25.7 million, Sanders $33.7 million). Biden, meanwhile, was at a surprising $8.9 million cash on hand.

Let’s assume for a moment that these are the four who end up in main contention for the nomination after the first four early states. Yes, that’s obviously a very big assumption, as Kamala Harris could bounce back, Amy Klobuchar or Cory Booker could surprise in Iowa, or many other scenarios could play out, but just stick with me for a moment.

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The top three in fundraising have the money to compete for a while regardless of how the early states turn out. Biden has the name and voter loyalty to stick it out even if he underperforms in the early states.

But what happens down the stretch, as we move into and past Super Tuesday?

Here’s the scenario that benefits Buttigieg:

  • A first or second-place finish for Buttigieg in Iowa that catapults him into top-three showings in the next three early states.
  • A disappointing finish for Biden in both Iowa and New Hampshire (behind Buttigieg in both cases), and not a convincing-enough win in South Carolina.
  • No embarrassing results for either Warren or Sanders.
  • No one else outside the top four emerges from the early states. Buttigieg is the sole, surging candidate.

Earlier this year, I thought that the Iowa Caucus would basically decide which candidate emerges as the main opponent to Biden for the duration of the long primary schedule. Now, it seems more likely that it will decide who is Warren’s biggest competitor. It’s possible that becomes Buttigieg.

That’s now where each candidate’s staying power becomes a determining factor. If Biden’s fundraising continues to lag, any new super PACs fail to bolster him, then the former vice president finds himself in a precarious place heading into Super Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Warren and Sanders could have their ups and downs in the early states, but both would enter Super Tuesday with loyal bases and lots of money.

And here’s the big question: who of the top four would face the most pressure to drop out first in this scenario?

Let’s assume Warren and Buttigieg end up in the strongest position after the first four states, but neither is in a place to close the deal. Sanders continues to eat into Warren’s progressive base, while Buttigieg presents himself (as he is currently) as the more-moderate alternative to Biden.

Last time, Sanders took his campaign all the way to the convention. That may not happen again if it’s clear he’s only playing spoiler to Warren at some point, but he has the resources and voter base to stick around longer than anyone. Biden, on the other hand, could run out of money if he struggles for an extended period of time.

Then you have a situation where Warren and Sanders are dividing the progressive vote, while Buttigieg has the moderate vote and other blocs all to himself. That’s a nice place for Buttigieg to be in as the primary stretches out into April and May.

Of course, there are many problems with the plausibility of this scenario, including:

  • Biden voters wouldn’t automatically shift to Buttigieg. Voters don’t vote on ideology alone. Many of Biden’s support is more about trust. And the difference in experience between the two is obviously drastic.
  • Warren’s campaign is targeting a broad cross-section of the party, so she’s not going to be limited to progressive voters only.
  • If it goes to convention, all bets are off.
  • Lots of other things.

The biggest wild card in all of this is the black vote, often the biggest factor in who becomes the nominee. Biden leads here, while it’s Buttigieg’s biggest vulnerability. Both Warren and Sanders appear to be making in-roads.

But let’s look at the primary calendar. By the end of March 10, one week after Super Tuesday, the following southern states will have voted: South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Mississippi (Missouri too if you count that). Georgia goes by itself on March 24.

If Biden is weakened overall, but manages to stay in through the end of March and his advantage among black voters holds (all a lot of “ifs”), he could forestall any other candidate’s ability to consolidate the black vote and rack up delegates there.

Anyway, this is all being written exactly 100 days out from the Iowa Caucus and could look very foolish after February 3. But given the recent polling, fundraising numbers and what we’re seeing on the ground, you can see where this is one very real potential scenario (out of many) that could lead Buttigieg to the nomination, something most would have dismissed just a few months ago.

Yes, there’s a lot of undecided Iowa caucus-goers, immense fluidity in the race and huge unknowns with so many candidates. But I think I wouldn’t mind being in Pete Buttigieg’s shoes right now.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 10/26/19

99 Comments on "An Emerging Scenario Where Buttigieg Wins The Nomination"

  • A “poll had the Mayor in third place at 13%. ” So, 87% of those polled did NOT choose Buttigieg. Hmm, perhaps it’s a little early to crown him.

  • While many of us are able to vote from an intellectual level, seeing the youth and vigor Pete brings to the table, as well as him being the needed stark contrast to the present fraud, the Tweeter of The Free World, too many will react from a visceral level, being turned off by him being openly gay. Media outlets should not be afraid to address and confront that issue, for fear of not being PC, after 2016, I put no trust in the average American to vote smart.

  • He’s mayor of a city one-third the size of Riverside, California. Become Governor and show us what you’ve got.

  • To this day, I do not understand why Iowa and New Hampshire continue to lead off the candidate selection process every four years. Our country is ill-served by expanding so much effort into the same two states and should be rotated or at least diluted.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Pete is terrific. He’s always on point, esp. in the last debate. If we have any sense, we’ll nominate him, otherwise, Trump wins. Warren & Biden don’t stand a chance.

  • Buttigieg projects a kind of integrity, humility, and honesty, plus intelligence, which is highly appealing in the current political climate.

    I see him as a bit more centrist and thus able to capture a fair amount of independents. The wisdom of any leader comes from knowing what they don’t know and relying upon expert advice to ultimately make the best possible decisions of their own. He strikes me as collaborative in this way as well. We need a return to this as a core American principal. The divide and conquer strategy of other politicians is evidence of their cynical disdain of democracy itself. I’m tired of it.

  • He will get the nom, even though he’s not the best of those running (sorry Mr Thompson). There are those who will see to it, and then he may win the White House, unless a better candidate than Trump wins the R. nom.

  • He is probably the best Democrat in the field — but I would never vote for him. As “good” as he is for the Democratic Party, he’s still a terrible choice for President of the United States. Not only does he have little experience, but his economic views are marginally better than the rest of the Democratic Party candidates. Moreover, Pete is very-far-left on social issues. I just wish that Matt Drudge would stop giving so much time and attention to Mayor Pete as well as anti-Trump propaganda.

  • Velocity of Iowa polls indicate Mayor Pete as the probable winner in Iowa. His rise is Biden’s fall. Warren and Sanders split the liberals. His weakness with African Americans doesn’t matter. In the general,
    90% will remain with the Democrat.

  • These states are small enough for the party apparatus to control and lead the voters to the candidate selected by Deep State.

  • Good article, hoping it could actually turn out. Current top tier too radical, too much baggage and (sorry up front) too old. Instead, here are good potential, no baggage, moderate winnable viewpoints, and likeable people: I can see a Buttigieg / Klobuchar ticket, and I think HIGHLY of Gabbard and Yang…maybe or maybe not this time, but I think it is better to match this younger group against Trump, they have a chance but also can apply again in the future…it is the ONLY HOPE the dems have going forward, it is time for NEW PEOPLE.

  • I saw an interview with Carl Rove on FoxNews several months ago where he predicted Mayor Pete would win the nomination. He’s a veteran and he has no baggage.

  • Mayor Pete is a lightweight. He will be blown away by convention time. His cute little retort to the ultra-lightweight “Beto” in the last debate shows him ruffling his feathers and acting tough. Phony.

  • First of all he’s spent 6x the amount of money just to get to 13%. Then you said something about Kamala Harris making a comeback?! Do you actually understand this race or anything about politics? Or arw you just pushing another establishment candidate since Biden is dead in the water? Ya we know . . .

  • Dear Kate, so you don’t like a really smart young man, who volunteered to serve his country as a US Naval intelligence officer, active duty in Afghanistan, went to Harvard, was a Rhodes scholar, etc. is a mayor in a town you find insignificant..etc…because smart scares you? Your argument that no one likes him in INdiana is without merit.Did you think he rigged an election like Donnie?

  • Pete is mayor of a small city – roughly the same size as Sioux City. Would you want the mayor of Sioux City, Fort Dodge, or Cedar Rapids at the top of the ticket? Is that POTUS credentials???

  • Excellent article. Fascinating analysis. Very indicative of how terribly weak the field is. The idea that the Mayor of a municipality of 102,000 (smaller than Evansville, Indiana) is a serious contender for the 2020 Democrat Presidential Nomination demonstrates how hollowed out national Democrat leadership was during the Obama years. The wipeout at the federal and statehouse level was massive. President Obama was a great self-promoter, but he didn’t build a lasting coalition – of either people or ideas.

  • Here’s the problem: a growing minority may be able to accept him in Iowa, but how will Blacks and Latinos react when he celebrates his nomination with lingering passionate kiss with his husband? Without Blacks and Latinos actively supporting him, what are his real chances? Zero.

  • This is blasphemy. Iowa and NH voters pride themselves on their political consciousness. If you disagree, you are a damn ignorant fool.

  • This guy has a legitimate shot if he can make in-roads with Blacks. Sanders and Warren are two classic east coast liberal elites, Biden is too frail, who else is there? And Mayor Pete stood up against gun and private health care confiscation. He would certainly warrent consideration with general election in mind- suburban woman (rep/or dem) have no problem with gay men and will be a decisive sliver of the electorate this year.

  • Talking about this democrat field is like discussing which clown will enter the car first, and which will exit last.

  • This article is nothing but speculation about voting that won’t take place for months. Do people get paid for writing such tripe?

  • Laughable. What an out of touch author. This race hasn’t even started. Watch as Tulsi places 1st or 2nd in NH 4 months from now.

  • Too young. Too inexperienced. It’s not as though Mayor Pete handled his mayoral position real well. Certainly it seems race relations have worsened under his reign in South Bend. He even admitted he’s “learning on the job.” Putin will make mincemeat of him. I agree with a prior poster…..Mayor Pete should get a more demanding official position, and then we’ll see how he handles the challenges.

  • A failed mayor from a city where his police force detests him. Matt Drudge has a live affair where th the guy, no shocker there.

  • I liked him at first but I think the way he talks about his personal brand of Christianity can be condescending and I don’t think he appeals beyond a narrow band of wealthy, urban whites. He isn’t popular with African Americans or working class people.

  • Not too sure that his far left agenda will go over well with the average Democrat voter. Wonder what special interests are funding his campaign.

  • If you pay any attention at all to Johnathan Capehart, Don Lemon, or Dave Chappell, you would know Pete Buttigieg will do poorly in the South. Even if he did miraculously win the nomination, he would lose the general election for 1 simple reason: low black voter turnout.

  • No way. This is wishful thinking on the part of the writer, Pat. Interesting name, Pat. Could be a man or a woman. At any rate, I don’t think the country is ready for the first gay president. Won’t be for another twenty of thirty years. Stop pushing this stuff. It’s just wasted typing.

  • Not sure a candidate who has ever earned more than 8,000 votes in any election should be bestowed upon us as prime time? You gotta wait like 55 more years if you want to be another front running Dem white guy, Mayor Pete!

  • The failed mayor of a midwest town Democrats couldn’t find on a map using Google indeed has a chance at the Democrat nomination, but zero chance at a win of the Presidency.

  • Yeah no. Pete really puts off that creepy sociopath vibe. All of his emotions are fabricated, and fairly poorly at that. Additionally, being from Iowa I can say with absolute certainty that he has no name recognition and those that are aware of his existence aren’t fond of it. Even as a Democratic candidate he’s boring. I’d venture to say more boring than Hilary by a long-shot.

  • I wish the guy all the luck in the world. That being said, I could give a flying fig who gets elected president. Putin was right when he said the US president has very little real power because the American government is controlled by anonymous guys in black suits, lurking in the shadows. The so-called “whistleblowers”. Bush had no power. Obama had no power. They’re getting rid of Trump. So really, who cares? I don’t have a dog in this fight.

  • I’m sure he’s a nice person, but after The Donald and now The Mayor… is it time to rethink the whole concept of primaries???

  • Solid work BUT buried way down is why Mayor Pete won’t win the nomination- he’s still polling less than 1% with black folks. Intersectionalism is NOT a thing and shouldn’t be treated as such.
    However, Mayor Pete should be applauded for making inroads and laying the ground work for a future openly gay candidate.

  • Buttigieg May do well in Iowa. But he’s finishing behind either Sanders or Warren there.

    Next is NH, where both Sanders and Warren are well-known and reasonably well-liked. He does third at best.

    There is no love for him in SC. He would be lucky to get fifth.

    Biden and Sanders are most popular in NV. Buttigieg would be lucky to get third ahead of Warren.

    So he would head into Super Tuesday having won nowhere and finishing no better than second anywhere.

    He’ll survive Super Tuesday, but not much longer afterward.

  • As someone who has been on the ground in the state of Iowa this whole time, nobody talks Mayor Pete and I see hundreds of supporters of Tulsi all around–bet you have never seen that truth anywhere before now!

  • I’ve long thought that Buttigieg would be the most formidable nominee for the Democrats. Joe Biden? Eh, the lack of enthusiasm for him is palpable. You can sense when a candidate has “it” — that being a highly charged core of supporters. Obama had it, Trump had it. Kerry, McCain, and Romney didn’t have it and neither did Hillary. Bernie does have it. But I think his ceiling is too low in terms of attracting a critical mass of voters outside his base.

    The urge to nominate a mainstream candidate (that is, neither Sanders nor Warren) certainly makes sense. But Joe Biden obviously isn’t that guy. His lackluster fundraising is a symptom of that, not a cause.

    Buttigieg is the only candidate who checks all the boxes.

  • More baseless orchestration. When the dust and feathers settle and you factor in demographic and cultural prejudices, the man would be lucky to get 25% of the vote from the electorate.

  • Lest you all forget when addressing qualifications for the office; the current holder was a TV host and has a lifelong history of screwing anyone that goes to work for him and NEVER pays debt owed to those who did work on his projects; the debt continues with his current rallies and let’s not forget . . . . There is a big beautiful wall being built in Colorado!!!!!!! OYE!!!!

  • Excellent analysis! Some comments suggest Pete Buttigieg’s sole skill set is as mayor of South Bend. People might want to look a little deeper. Elizabeth Warren has less political experience and no military experience.

    I suspect, in the end, the ticket will be Warren and Buttigieg (Woman Consumer Advocate for president and Midwest Mayo Brainiac Moral Gay Combat Veteran as VP) if their egos allow them to coalesce early.

    I am more interested in two other candidates but can see supporting a Warren-Buttigieg ticket. Their chances of winning? Pretty good as long as Republicans are ineffective in putting a muzzle on the Orange Train Wreck. We are still waiting on what the economy looks like in 2020, how much more is uncovered about Russian intrusions and what happens to the 2,000 troops sent to Saudi Arabia. I believe Trump has sown the seeds of his own destruction; whether they will grow and bloom soon enough is the question.

  • Not likely, he couldn’t win a general election. Right now the extremist are loudest, but in the general election it will be mostly the middle of the road democrats and he’ll disappear quickly.

  • I’m Republican and I’ve donated to his campaign. Trump has worn me out and the other Dems make me sick to my stomach.

  • Whoa. The haters are out in force. And I’m not sure what you’re trying to imply about Pat, Mr. Clayton. Perhaps it would be more clear to you as to his gender (as if that makes a difference) that his given name is Patrick.

  • He will get the nomination, even though he’s not the best candidate. There are those who will see to it, and then he may win the White House, unless a better candidate than Trump wins the R. nomination.

  • We know it’s not going to be Bernie, it’s not going to be Biden, it’s not going to be Warren.

    Who else is there? The DNC is to stupid to allow Tulsi Gabbard, the one Dem who could win, so I guess Pete is the logical choice.

  • Does Pete know what Fat Chance means ? OK — so he’s the pick of All the MSM outlets have their preferred pick…

  • I would enthuiastically support a Warren & Mayor Pete ticket. If you will look at current history both parties the V.P. has been given immense importance by the Pres. & This would build a good resume for Mayor Pete to reach the #1 spot when Pres. Warren terms out. He would be real instrumental in Defense & I do NOT buy the story that the Black vote will not support him. there are a lot of gay black people that no seems to notice.

  • Any one of these authoritarian socialists would be disastrous for the country so whether it is Pete or not, enough people will see that their desires for someone else to find their choices is anti-liberty in its face.

  • I am from Pa. and he may get some votes from the cities but very few from the rest of Pa. I for one would never vote for him.

  • Unqualified? Born a US citizen, 35 years old. That’s about it for qualifications. I mean, look at the incumbent’s background (and for that matter his predecessor) if you want to see a thin resume.

  • pete cant even take care of the streets in south bend. and you drop at manhole covers same as hitting potholes. it used to take ten minutes to get across town. now theyve got the lights timed so you get to stop at every light to enjoy the scenery for two or three minutes. now they want to ticket you for utilizing a smartphone……what the hell else are you supposed to do stopped at one red light after another and the next….im glad he likes what hes created here. its a damn shame he comes across so well to people cuz his face has messed up south bend well!

  • I’ve been a big fan of Mayor Pete for a while now. I think perhaps more than any of the candidates, he’d bring back DIGNITY to the White House.

    Anyway, there’s a long ways to go, yet, but, one thing I think the Mayor has going for him is TIMING. He’s got momentum, in other words, and it seems to be arriving at the right time. To put it another way, it appears he hasn’t peaked too early — always a dangerous proposition in politics.

    Know hope.

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