Is Pete Buttigieg’s fledgling campaign for president already over?
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and first openly gay contender for a presidential nomination, enjoyed an extended honeymoon period with the press, landing on the cover of TIME and features in high-profile fashion magazines, but in recent days, Buttigieg’s star power seems to have waned, and even mainstream media commentators have been souring on “Mayor Pete.”
On Wednesday, TODAY Show host Craig Melvin even predicted an unceremonious and premature end to Buttigieg’s campaign, labeling the upstart, “boring.”
You don’t meet a lot of guys like Mayor Pete who last long on a national level, because, quite frankly, he’s kind of boring,” Melvin said, according to the Free Beacon, after The TODAY Show aired a clip of Buttigieg speaking in South Carolina.
“We’ve seen this from time to time in our politics, there’s a man or a woman who manages to capture our attention for and then they fizzle, they fade, they peter out,” Melvin said. “What’s different this time?”
The Boston Globe echoed Melvin, calling Buttigieg, “remarkably unremarkable.”
Buttigieg has been particularly successful at raising money, pulling in hundreds of thousands from Silicon Valley and Hollywood fundraisers in the last week, but at the same time, voter interest in Buttigieg has waned, per Real Clear Politics’ tracking polls, falling from a peak of 8%, which put him into contention with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), back down to just a little more than 6%, placing him solidly in the second string of potential Democratic nominees.
Newspapers have also begun questioning why Buttigieg is getting national attention, when his campaign is, by the numbers, still well behind those of more established candidates. On Thursday, the New York Times questioned why Buttigieg was appearing on magazine covers and scoring key interviews when Kamala Harris, who has long been a front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination, and who outraised Buttigieg by millions in the first quarter, is being almost completely ignored.
It also appears that a signal has gone out authorizing mainstream media outlets — who, just last week, were writing glowing stories about Buttigieg’s attractive family and one-eyed rescue dog — to criticize Buttigieg’s campaign. NBC News, for example, published a hit piece Thursday morning, taking Buttigieg to task for having a “comprehensive” health care plan (which is scant on details) that would offer health care even to illegal immigrants, but failing to offer his own staffers a paid health care option.
Buttigieg seems to have noticed. Just this week, he began taking more aggressive positions on the campaign trail, at one point even suggesting that God would be more apt to support a Buttigieg presidency than a Trump re-election — a barb aimed directly at Evangelicals who support Trump despite his history of marital infidelities, something Buttigieg, no doubt, considers hypocritical.
He’s also noticed that his base, while energized, is not exactly “diverse.” At a townhall in South Carolina this week, he begged supporters to help him court minority voters, ABC News reports, especially in states like South Carolina where a diverse base of support is key to winning delegates.
If Buttigieg has had one success, though, it is getting Beto O’Rourke out of the race for the Democratic nomination. After a brief dalliance with the limelight, it appears O’Rourke, heavily overshadowed by Buttigieg, may not make the first Democratic primary debate stage.