November 2, 2019

Mayor Pete: Well Earned Top-Tier Status

by Hal Gershowitz

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At least in Iowa, and the stars in the election galaxy may be lining up elsewhere too. As our readers know, we began focusing on South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, quite a while ago.  He is, to us, looking stronger and stronger, and for good reason. He’s young. He’s smart. He’s a superb campaigner, and he speaks truth to nonsense…And would we love to see him in a debate with President Trump. After all, when America went to war against terror, Mayor Pete made an appointment with his military recruiter, became a naval officer and went to Afghanistan and on to Bagram Airbase, where he served as an intelligence officer. With America at war in Viet Nam, Donald Trump made an appointment with his Podiatrist.   

Looking at the top tier of Democratic contenders for the nomination, Pete Buttigieg looks more and more like the candidate to watch. He’s young and smart and Sanders is old and possibly ailing. Elizabeth Warren has hoisted herself on her own petard. Medicare for all, like it or not, is not a winning proposition, especially when it is contingent upon a ridiculous promise; that she won’t sign a Medicare-for-all bill if it doesn’t reduce costs. Does anyone really believe she or anyone will really know what Medicare-for-all, including pre-existing conditions, will cost over the next decade? What we do know for sure is that her proposal will increase taxes on almost all taxpayers. Buttigieg’s proposal of Medicare for all who want it, is much sounder, politically, and, therefore, much more saleable.

To our surprise, Senator Warren, a very bright candidate, seems tone-deaf with respect to basic political reality. Winning political campaigns are always about addition; never about subtraction. You campaign to add voters, not to subtract them. Elizabeth Warren insisting that no one likes their private health insurance just isn’t so. Nearly 150 million men and women have employer-provided health insurance and tens of millions have also purchased their own private plans. Research demonstrates that the vast majority of people are satisfied with their private plans. Senator Warren harping on the idea that no one likes their private plan is, in our judgment, a huge error that could well cost her the nomination. Finally, Joe Biden is not presenting himself as Presidential timber, because he probably isn’t Presidential timber. But, then again, Trump is President of the United States, so who knows how Americans define Presidential timber today.

Mayor Pete’s perceived weakness is that he is gay and that he polls very low among African Americans. We say “perceived” because most African Americans have had little exposure to him. That he is gay is a negative among African Americans, as was his early decision to fire South Bend’s first and only African-American Chief of Police, over the police department’s practice of illegally wiretapping conversations among police officers. Mayor Pete openly acknowledges that firing Chief Boykins was a serious mistake. Buttigieg has also had to contend with a fatality involving a white policeman using lethal force against an African-American member of the community.

At this stage of the Presidential contest, we skim national polls and study state polls. We find the polls in Iowa, where the nation’s first primary will take place in less than 100 days particularly fascinating.  We took note when, about two weeks ago, Buttigieg climbed over ten percent in the Iowa polls, closing in rapidly on Sanders, Warren, and Biden. In this week’s polling data, Buttigieg has surged past Biden and is but a hair’s distance behind Warren and Sanders. Warren leads at 22 percent, followed by Sanders at 19 percent and Buttigieg at 18 percent and closing fast. This is fascinating for a number of reasons. First, we find it encouraging that a young, gay contender is polling so well in Iowa. Second, the New York Times/Siena College poll of likely Democratic Iowa Caucus participants shows that most Iowa caucus voters prefer improving private health insurance plans rather than eliminating them. This is, as inferred earlier in this essay, the Achilles Heel of Warren’s campaign. At least Sanders admits his Medicare-for-all plan will raise taxes on just about everybody. Senator Warren may have squirmed and danced around this reality one debate too many.  Buttigieg’s “Medicare-for-all who want it”, plays much better.

Warren may well falter early with a Medicare-for-all plan that taxes, as the saying goes, everything that moves. Should that happen, we will see the 2020 primaries play out between a fading, past-ready-for-primetime, Joe Biden, an old socialist, Bernie Sanders, a policy wonk who committed too early to mandatory universal health care, Elizabeth Warren, and a very bright, young, decorated veteran, who can debate with the best of them, Pete Buttigieg.

We suspect President Trump will be at a loss for insults to hurl at Pete Buttigieg. Given President Trump’s preference for politics of personal destruction, he would be at a strong disadvantage facing Pete Buttigieg in a debate. Nonetheless, Trump is still polling pretty well in the rust belt where large electoral votes lurk. On the other hand, it is expected that 2020 could see the largest turnout in a century, driven largely by newly eligible young voters. Current polls suggest that those who are college-educated will vote overwhelmingly for whoever is running against Trump. Trump is, however, expected to hold his own and, perhaps, do quite well among non-college- educated young voters.

Hold on to your hat. It’s going to be quite a ride.

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8 responses to “Mayor Pete: Well Earned Top-Tier Status”

  1. Ted Goldman says:

    Many voters hope that Mayor Pete receives the Democratic nomination for President.
    Other voters pray that Mayor Pete receives that nomination. Among them is Donald Trump.

  2. Response to Ted Goldman: May their prayers be answered.

  3. susan duman says:

    Oh my. If it is possible that Trump, down deep, does not want to run, yes, our prayers will be answered.
    I think there is a new group of very successful gays in our country. I mean not just in California and New York.
    Please put on your thinking caps.
    Sexuality and freedom to express yourself in what ever way you choose matters, even in the rust belt.
    Nancy Pelosi knows that. She doesn’t want her caucus to go crazy.
    Keep doing what you’re doing.

  4. Perry says:

    Very well put and personally he at least seems to be a moderate
    rather than far left. His lifestyle may turn out to be quite a
    stumbling block to his winning in the 2020 election.

    I have heard him and feel he will be more formidable than any other candidate. His articulation and intelligence will enable
    him to run a great campaign. Young and energetic I believe
    it will be closer than previously imagined.

  5. Mike says:

    Your disdain for Trump is obvious. So, logically your comments are centered around the person who has the best chance to beat Trump. I’d rather see a column that focuses on the candidate who has the best Agenda for America.

    Mayor Pete’s performance in running South Bend has not been particlularly inspiring. And he has virtually no track record to suggest he has any experience in leading large complex organizations.

    I am not a fan of Trump’s personal attributes but before running for President he had experience in leading ventures that succeeded and failed. It’s not like he is a neophyte in conducting negotiations. He can be ruthless and unprincipled.

    No other President had the stones to actually move the embassy to Jerusalem. No other President since Reagan had the stones get a tax reform passed that encouraged American companies to repatriate hundreds of billions in foreign earnings. No other President had the stones to confront China over the theft of intellectual property. And I think Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are vastly superior choices for Supreme Court Justices than anyone Hillary or Mayor Pete would have chosen.

    Do I wish Trump would tweet less and be less narcissistic. Obviously! But perhaps your future columns will highlight what America will look like under President Pete. I would suggest that charisma and intellect alone are not enough to be an effective President.

    In 1976, Jimmy Carter was charismatic and pretty intelligent. How dit that work out.

  6. James Fisher says:

    Well said Mike. I agree with every point you made.

    The recent essays literally drip with hatred for President Trump and that hatred greatly diminishes the effect of the occasional rational points made by the authors.

    My fear is that as Trump’s achievements grow even greater the level of vitriol expressed in the essays will rise in tandem.

    For what purpose?

    • Response to James Fisher: “essays…literally drip with hatred,” hardly. Often critical, even edgy, yes. Sometimes supportive, also yes. Critical of the so-called resistance (as compared to the opposition), also yes. Rhetoric that “drips with hatred” has become all too common in our political discourse, but it isn’t tolerated here.

  7. Robert borns says:

    Mayor Pete as president is casting a minnow into a seas of sharks. He has done nothing for south bend. He has the brains but so did jack kennedy who was over his head. He would be chopped up and he would have the voters begging for a trump like character. Cerebral only doesn’t do it without experience and a ruthless inner core. That’s the turn the world has taken.

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