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Data Proves Democratic 2020 Contender Pete Buttigieg Is Rapidly Gaining Interest

Pete Buttigieg (Photo via Marc Nozell)
Pete Buttigieg (Photo via Marc Nozell)

Is Pete Buttigieg the dark horse candidate of 2020?

The Democratic 2020 candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor is attracting more social media interest than any of his rivals. The social media analytics company Newswhip revealed articles about Pete Buttigieg posted on Facebook and Twitter drew the most interaction of any major Democrat.

Axios reported other major signifiers of Buttigieg’s surging social media presence, adding 447k followers on Twitter since March 10 (his closest competitor was Beto O’Rourke with 137k) and more new followers on Instagram (90k) and Twitter (75k) than any other Democrat except O’Rourke. Buttigieg is also rising in frequency of Google searches and engagement with his tweets (more than anyone except O’Rourke).

Buttigieg’s unique background separates him from his competition. The South Bend Mayor is openly gay, speaks 8 languages, and is a Navy veteran. At 37 years old, he is also a millennial Rhodes scholar and Harvard Graduate. The New Yorker’s David Remnick posits that Buttigieg’s military experience and Midwest background liberate him from the negative stereotypes many conservatives have developed for the Democratic party (a group of out-of-touch coastal elites).

Buttigieg also holds the rare position of appealing to both the progressive and centrist wings of the Democratic Party. In November 2016, when the South Bend Mayor was only 34, former President Obama mentioned him as a potential Democratic candidate for 2020 and a realistic challenger to President Trump. But beyond establishment recognition, Buttigieg has displayed an affinity for progressive causes like universal healthcare and a version of the Green New Deal. Buttigieg won the national library award from JFK library at age 18 for an essay about Bernie Sanders.

In the 2000 essay, Buttigieg praised Sanders for being unapologetically true to his principles, and for being willing to work with others and compromise:

“It may seem strange that someone so steadfast in his principles has a reputation as a peacemaker between divided forces in Washington, but this is what makes Sanders truly remarkable. He represents President Kennedy’s ideal of ‘compromises of issues, not of principles.'”

Buttigieg’s youth is a potential advantage against his idol-turned-rival Sanders, who is 77.

The young mayor’s popularity is also indicative of a tide shift in American attitudes towards homosexuality. In 2006, 34% of Americans said they would be “very uncomfortable” with an openly gay person running for president, while 19% would have “reservations.” In 2019, 54% said they would be comfortable with a gay candidate while 14% said they would be enthusiastic.

In a national Quinnipiac poll, Buttigieg polled at 4%, a significant rise from his earlier position at 1%. With his rapidly growing social media presence and $7 million raised in campaign fundraising since January, it is clear the Indiana mayor is a serious contender in the Democratic primary.

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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