His Presidential Campaign is the Ultimate Test
- He’s polling 4th nationally, only bested by two senators and a former VP who have been on the national stage forever. He’s outpolling other senators, governors and people with a high national profile. Buttigieg started a mere 6 months ago with a couple of staff, tiny mailing list, and zero name recognition. If this seems like no biggie, consider that the Mayor of New York City got into the race, got his ass handed to him, and dropped out. Rising above the crowd through sheer talent and determination? That’s presidential.
- He’s a powerful fundraiser. He raised $44 million in Q2 and Q3 combined, more than any other candidate. And he has as many individual grassroots donors (580,000) as anyone other than Sanders, who began with a huge mailing list from his 2016 run. Buttigieg did that coming from nothing and without taking lobbyist or corporate PAC money. This requires brilliant strategy, networking, and massive hard work. Even with all that, it doesn’t happen without impressing the hell out of every person he meets. That’s presidential.
- He’s built a top notch campaign machine very quickly. He hired on staff that worked for Obama, the DNC, Clinton, and other big political powerhouses. They didn’t join up with “a small town Indiana mayor” on a whim. They joined Buttigieg because they saw something remarkable in him. And his organization is now “everywhere” in the field in the early states, according to local media. This shows his strategic strength, his understanding of campaigning and politics, and his ability to get people passionately behind him and ramp up fast. That’s presidential.
- He’s shown impressive consistency of message, strength, and calm. In every interview, including having press on the bus with him for 3 days in Iowa recently, he sticks to a consistent message, answers any question with great understanding and nuance, and shows respect for the press, honesty, and patience. He’s never flipflopped on an issue or said “I’ll think about that” or dodged a question. Even when it’s clear someone wants him to give a different answer, Buttigieg sticks to his position. That’s HARD. And it shows that Buttigieg will have one of the most transparent and media-friendly White House admins ever. That’s presidential.
- He’s running a modern campaign. His content team, social media presence, use of video, etc show a millennial sensibility and understanding of the importance of great shareable content. This is what it’s gonna take to drive out the youth vote. And imagine this sort of inspiring content coming out of the White House! (see campaign videos on Pete’s Instagram). Using the best tools, hiring the best talent, and spreading a positive, hopeful, fun message? That’s presidential.
- He’s using his campaign to demonstrate positive leadership. With Buttigieg’s rules of the road, refusing to be baited into trashing other candidates, and focusing on a message of hope rather than one of outrage and despair, Pete is already showing true leadership. He’s not just campaigning, he’s said he’s already demonstrating a new type of politics, a healing of the divide, creating a sense of belonging and community for all. What kind of ambition does it take to have a goal like that whilst also trying to, you know, get elected? To want to do good in the world even while still running his campaign? That’s presidential.
- He’s made his campaign about the people — not himself and not Trump. It is an easy win to take a swipe at Trump and get a laugh or a cheer. But mostly, Buttigieg avoids that temptation. “If we’re talking about him, we’re not talking about you.” Some candidates campaign almost entirely on an anti-Trump message. But so what? Everyone already knows he’s terrible. Buttigieg has shown great judgement and wisdom in knowing what really matters. Further, he is leading by example. Instead of running in circles for days about every stupid thing Trump says or does, like the media pundits, Buttigieg calls out Trump’s worst behavior but immediately pivots to talk about what the post-Trump era will look like. He stays true to his own priorities and refuses to let Trump steal the show. That’s presidential.
- His policies are top notch. All the policies he’s released have been praised by experts as being top of the field. He’s constantly meeting with people on the ground, such as HIV/AIDS activists, to listen and learn more deeply about the issues his policies need to address. He has an ability to distill and get to the heart of problems and suggest practical plans to solve them at a root, not a cosmetic, level. It’s not about having all the answers yourself, it’s about knowing how to assemble a team, respect expertise, listen, and focus that input into a plan of action that reflects your fundamental core values. That’s presidential.
- He’s shown he understands where his ‘holes’ are and that he’s willing and able to do the work to fix them. Not polling well with minorities, Buttigieg led with the Douglass Plan and has consistently gone out of his way to speak to Black Americans, whether that’s at the NAACP, or meeting with small locals groups and Black leaders everywhere he goes. He’s not ignoring his weak spots, or pretending he’s stronger than he is. He’s doing the hard work to turn that weak spot into a strength. That’s presidential.
- In the diversity of his campaign staff, Buttigieg demonstrates “showing vs telling”. I love that most of his heads of staff are powerful women such as Lis Smith and Jess O’Connell. He’s assembled a large group of PoC and LGBTQ on his staff. He’s living up to what he says: that the White House and cabinet should reflect the diversity of the US, that EVERYONE is equal and invited to participate. That’s presidential.
- He’s convinced a whole lot of people that he is “presidential” material. Not only does his polling and donations show his candidacy has convinced a lot of people to support him, but even those who have another first choice will say Pete is “presidential” in the debates, or that he is destined to be president “some day”. By comparison, most others in the Dem field have not convincingly made this impression.
So let’s be real. It’s not remotely easy to run for president, much less to stand out in a crowded field of 25+ candidates. The very fact that Pete is successfully campaigning at the HIGHEST LEVEL in the field (maybe matched only by the Warren campaign), is, in itself, a sign that he has what it takes.
Buttigieg’s campaign shows he is strategic, politically savvy, knowledgeable about a broad range of issues, works enormously hard, listens and learns quickly, is appealing and charismatic, is patient and even-tempered, and has both ambition and the real world chops to achieve his goals. In short: he is ready to be president.
The process itself is the winnowing gate. Pete often talks about the fact that it’s not just about winning, but about DESERVING TO WIN. He’s showing the world that he deserves to win this thing. And by May of 2020, I suspect he will have convinced even his biggest skeptics.
[read in full at Medium.com]