If he wins the Democratic presidential nomination and defeats President Donald Trump in 2020, Buttigieg, 37, will be the youngest (and first millennial) president in US history, the first candidate to go straight from the mayor's office to the White House . first time out gay president.
But Buttigieg, who is known all over town as "Mayor Pete", is not getting ahead: he knows it's a difficult target for the White House. In a recent Monmouth University poll, only 14% of Democrats and those who lean toward Democrat could form an opinion on him and 58% said they had never heard of him.
Buttigieg (boot-edge-edge) is already working to introduce itself to voters. He is in Iowa this weekend for the first time since announcing his exploratory committee in January. Buttigieg hopes that as he becomes better known, his story and the history of South Bend will be his key to victory.
"If we seem to be the protectors of the old order, if we seem to be here to restore normalcy, whatever that means, then in a sense we are committing the same sin as the Trump campaign, which is telling people to seek the greatness in the wrong places, "Buttigieg said in his first interview with CNN since the launch of its exploratory committee.
Buttigieg won the mayor's office for the first time at age 29, after a decade – first at Harvard, then as Rhodes scholar at Oxford, McKinsey consultant, and as Navy Reserve officer. In South Bend, where he has been mayor since 2012, Buttigieg describes the history of expansion and contraction of northern Indiana, a story similar to many cities in the Midwest industrial. A large part of this past is the factory of Studebaker car company. Left closed and vacant since the 1960s, it has long remained a symbol of the city's decay. Now Buttigieg serves as a tour guide for the large factory while working with private companies to turn it into a technology center.
"We were honest about the fact that nothing like the Studebaker car company would ever go back to the city.that would not go back.but we were," he said, drawing an unmistakable parallel between the two. approach to the plan and its message to voters.
"For us, it's a story about how we look to the future," he said. "We are not trying to recover what was there before. But we are taking elements from our past and then shaping them into something new."
One of the issues that Buttigieg faces in almost every stop is whether he has the experience to be the president. A recent CNN poll revealed that 81 percent of Democrats and those who lean toward Democrats said having the right experience to be president was extremely or very important to their decision on who to support the nomination of the party. Buttigieg certainly does not shy away from it. He really does receive it.
"It's a fair question and I think we have a very good response," he said. "The question of age has been solved by the founders of the constitution." The question of experience, in my opinion, is actually one of the most important questions that I want to answer: the background of a mayor of a city of any size is the cloth I do not have to go on tour to find out what's going on in the middle of America, I just go to Target. "
His experience as mayor in Indiana also put him against Vice President Mike Pence, former governor of his state. Buttigieg criticized Pence's decision as governor in 2015 to sanction a controversial religious freedom law that critics say could be used to justify discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Buttigieg does not measure words when it comes to Pence.
"My personal interactions with him have always been very civil and very decent, but it's also simply true that politically he's a fanatic and he has damaged our city and our state through choices that his social extremism has led him to make," he said.
However, before Buttigieg can think about facing Pence and Trump, he must first face a group of Democrats who are either wishing to nominate the party or considering an application in 2020. Many are better known (Biden, Warren, Sanders). There are other former mayors and there could be even more (Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Mike Bloomberg). There is yet another veteran (Buttigieg served in Afghanistan in 2014) in Congressman Tulsi Gabbard. And another Midwesterner, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, is expected to enter the race on Sunday.
The mayor says he sees his fellow Democrats as competitors, not as opponents.
"I think when you're seeing others as opponents, you're looking to find your weaknesses. When you're looking at competitors, you think about how everyone brings something to the table," he said, adding with a chuckle: "Definitely , I am the only left-handed, homosexual American, episcopal, millenarian of the race. So I have this clue just for me. "
Buttigieg left in 2015 in the middle of his run for re-election for mayor, with a newspaper publication "Why Exit Matters?". He went on to win with 80% of the vote. The story of his candidacy for the White House is not lost on him, but Buttigieg makes it clear that he does not want the possibility of being the first gay president to define his campaign.
"Being gay is a part of who I am and I'm aware of what it means to be that kind of first elected official to try to do this who's out," he says. "At the same time, in the final analysis, I want to be evaluated based on the ideas I bring to the table.It's like being mayor.If I'm plowing the snow and filling holes, then I'm a good mayor and if we can not do I'm not, and it has almost nothing to do with when you get home it's for a husband or a wife. "
Buttigieg married her husband, Chasten, eight months ago. He summons his relationship on the trail, telling potential participants at the Iowa meeting on Friday, "My marriage is the most important thing in my life, it exists by the grace of a single vote in the US Supreme Court. for which I feel so intimately that politics is important. "
Buttigieg and her husband sat down with CNN for their first interview together.
"The reason I fell in love with Pete is because he's the same person on the trail or at home," said Chasten Buttigieg. "I'm very excited for the country to meet you on a much larger scale because it's just a breath of fresh air."
As with any married couple, the Buttigiegs did not take long to recognize that their spouse is not perfect. The mayor is a bit loose with food expiration dates and a bit of a collector when it comes to his old corduroy pants, according to Chasten. And in return, the mayor made it clear that he is the only one who folds any clothes in his house. All this happening as his new dog, Buddy, tried several times to steal his attention and his lunch (blatantly climbing up the dining room table while everyone was watching). Then there was Truman, the other family dog, who kept the silent watch from his perch under the piano.
While all this is just a normal home life for the Buttigiegs, they recognize the power of the image of a gay couple in the national political scene.
"We talked about what it would mean for one of us when we were young to see it," Mayor Buttigieg said.
He added, "It is not lost on me that at no time in the last hundred years would anyone be like me taken seriously. Something is different now and I will not miss this moment."