“He reminds me of Obama”

by Daniel Marans – Nov 7, 2019 (HuffPost.com, abridged)

Pushing Biden Out Of The Obama Lane?

Notwithstanding Pete Buttigieg’s glaring differences with Obama, he is trying to cultivate the kinds of voters who remain enamored of the former president’s eloquence and sunny disposition. Call it the “West Wing” lane. He is the kind of candidate that Democrats of varied ideological leanings can see as the personification of their ideal of politics ― a place where intelligence, uplifting rhetoric and an inspiring personal story are enough to vanquish the demons of division that plague the country.

Many attendees of Buttigieg’s town halls volunteered comparisons to Obama unprompted, while some cited other iconic Democratic presidents.

“I think it’s because of his charisma,” said Barb Neal, a retired banker from Mount Vernon, who attended the Decorah town hall, by way of explaining the Obama comparison. “He just gives me hope. He’s so positive. So many of them are so negative ― just bashing the other side, and he doesn’t do that.”

Mary Thomsen, Neal’s sister, who still works as a banker, chimed in to agree. “He reminds me of Obama. For some reason he also reminds me of John F. Kennedy,” she said.

‘Pete’s Team Has Shown Up’

The Liberty and Justice Celebration is the last of several Iowa political confabs that punctuate the six-month period of campaigning leading up to the Iowa caucuses, which are due to take place this year on Feb. 3. Only candidates who purchase the state party’s voter file or have field offices in the state are permitted to speak. They are also welcome to purchase tickets for their supporters to attend and cheer them on in the stands. (In other words, raucous applause is often less spontaneous, and more sponsored.)

In November 2007, Obama’s memorable speech at the fundraiser ― then known as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner ― set the tone for the homestretch of Obama’s Iowa campaign, which culminated in his historic victory on caucus day.

Buttigieg sought to make his speech ― and delegation ― at Friday’s Liberty and Justice Celebration a similarly impressive turning point. Festivities began with a rally in downtown Des Moines and a march to the dinner that the Buttigieg campaign said included 2,300 people. 

Although the campaign ― like other campaigns ― coordinated the participation of many Iowa activists, there was also a delegation of some 1,000 members of the ad hoc, internet-based, grassroots group, “Barnstomers 4 Pete,” who attended the event on their own dime.

Ariana Wyndham, an undocumented immigrant who can remain in the country thanks to Obama’s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program and who lives in Warren, Ohio, is a leader of the group. She drove to Des Moines with her husband Peter, a crane operator, for the dinner festivities and a few days of canvassing and bonding with fellow activists.

Speaking to HuffPost on the concourse of the Wells Fargo arena, Wyndham, covered in Buttigieg swag, described suffering from anxiety and depression after Trump’s election. Without the right to vote, she felt powerless to get involved in politics until she found out about Buttigieg. She was particularly drawn to the account Buttigieg gives in his book, “Shortest Way Home,” of reviving South Bend, a struggling post-industrial city that reminded her of her own.

“It’s just amazing to see that,” she said. “I think it can be done everywhere and it should be done everywhere.”

The following days were a show of force from Buttigieg designed to capitalize on his strong reception at the Liberty and Justice Celebration. On Saturday, after answering the questions of building trades union leaders at a multi-candidate fish fry in Cedar Rapids, Buttigieg embarked on a three-day bus tour across rural northern Iowa, welcoming reporters onto his bus for extended group interviews in between campaign stops.

Over the course of six town halls, Buttigieg spoke to crowds ranging from 275 people on the low end to upwards of 1,000, according to estimates provided to the campaign by building managers. The turnout was significant considering that all but one of the events took place in towns with a few thousand people. (His fourth stop was in Mason City, which has a population just under 28,000.)

The campaign has one of the most extensive field presences in Iowa with over 100 staff on the ground and some 20 offices.

Buttigieg has ramped up his investment in digital advertisements in the state as well, spending over $48,000 on Facebook ads targeting Iowans in the past week alone — more than any other Democrat running for president

“In a lot of the towns that not just campaigns but a lot of economists have written off, Mayor Pete’s team has shown up,” said J.D. Scholten, a Democrat running to represent several of the towns Buttigieg visited in the U.S. House and who has not endorsed in the presidential primary. “For months it was Warren. I don’t know if they’ve switched strategy or something. I’m just saying I’m now seeing Pete more.

[read in full at HuffPost.com]

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