In horse race news this morning, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has had an absolutely fantastic first quarter of 2019, raising over $7 million dollars, per the campaign (sorry, “exploratory committee”)’s internal estimates.
“We (you) are out-performing expectations at every turn,” Buggigieg wrote on Twitter. Well dang, you sure are, Pete!
Buttigieg’s numbers, as every political publication is obligated to point out, put him in the “upper echelon” of 2020 Democratic challengers as they “jockey to show strength” in the early days of the interminable hell that is primary season. Buttigieg has also had some strong showings in early polls, thanks to a whirlwind of media appearances, hitting third in one Iowa poll behind Biden (who still has not officially jumped in the race) and Bernie Sanders (officially running and a lot richer than Pete).
The question now is: What is $7 million in donations buying you?
Buttigieg’s campaign—sorry, committee—has been perfectly fine so far. Given his shining resume—he’s an Ivy League educated veteran etc.—and generally thoughtful demeanor, it seems like most of the country is chill with Pete. Unlike fellow white-dude-running-on-vague-platforms Beto O’Rourke, Buttigieg’s had a whole lot less time to piss people off and, to his credit, isn’t abandoning a winnable Senate to do so. That’s all well and good, but Buttigieg does show early signs of falling into O’Rourke’s same trap of nebulous indecision and vague, bullshit-y messages of change. Take this answer, from an exchange with a Vice reporter highlighted in Current Affairs’s exhaustive examination of Buttigieg:
I think it can actually be a little bit dishonest to think you have it all figured out on day one. I think anybody in this race is going to be a lot more specific or policy-oriented than the current president. But I don’t think we ought to have that all locked in on day one.
This, like most things Buttigieg says, sounds like a fair answer, but honestly? No. I’m willing (and eager!) to accept a presidential candidate whose views change over the course of a campaign or career, but in such a packed field, it’s hard to have a lot of patience for candidates who don’t yet feel comfortable (figuratively) rolling up their sleeves and getting specific as to what they want. This is particularly frustrating given that Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has been churning out focused, detailed policy memos on everything from foreign policy to farming. Even Kamala Harris made a splash last week with a bold, focused “pay teachers, tax the rich” plan. Hell, if you even look in his direction, Andrew Yang will give you like 75 policy positions and at least three opinions that you really didn’t want to hear. There’s nothing stopping Pete from giving this a shot too!
Buttigieg will be a welcome voice in the debates, and it’s good that he has the cash to keep campaigning. But I sincerely hope that when that time comes, we get our money’s worth.