by Jake Lahut – Jan 3, 2020 (SentinelSource.com, abridged)
Less than 48 hours into his new life as the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg kicked off his latest Granite State swing in Keene Thursday with a rare suit covering his normally rolled-up sleeves.
Before a crowd of more than 850 at The Colonial Theatre, he continued firing up supporters, several of whom said they’ve gone from favoring him to thinking he could actually win.
Outside The Colonial, after Buttigieg gave a 15-minute stump speech, answered audience questions and rolled out some of his biggest local endorsements on stage — featuring state Rep. David Morrill, D-Keene; Keene City Councilor Randy L. Filiault; and Cheshire County Sheriff Eliezer “Eli” Rivera — several Buttigieg supporters said they are beginning to feel like they could be part of a winning effort.
“You can just feel the energy is exciting,” Fran Denis, a business analyst from Chesterfield said. “It’s so different to when I first saw him in Hancock [in August].
“You know, we were getting to know him,” Denis, 52, continued. “Then, he was Pete the candidate. Now, he’s Pete the presidential candidate — oh my God.”
Among her friends and after a hearty discussion on Buttigieg’s electability over Thanksgiving dinner, Denis said she’s observed that his biggest opponents are Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, both septuagenarians with longstanding relationships to their voters.
However, Denis said she thinks Buttigieg’s military background and his command of the issues will continue to win more people over as the primary approaches.
“He’s not arrogant smart, he’s relatable smart,” she said.
Cindy Letendre, a patient data coordinator from Keene who hadn’t seen Buttigieg in person before, said she was surprised by how authentically his personality came across compared to when he’s on television.
“This gave me the opportunity to see that he can do it on the fly,” Letendre, 59, said, adding she was particularly impressed with how he handled questions from the audience.
Letendre said she convinced her husband, an independent Trump supporter, to pull the lever for Buttigieg on Feb. 11 in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary.
Some fellow Hoosiers even turned up at The Colonial, with Jane and Charles Olomis in town from Columbia City, Ind., visiting family.
They said they were happy to see how well Buttigieg was received, and were impressed with how well organized the event was.
Charles predicted a solid performance in New Hampshire could bode well for Buttigieg if his Midwestern appeal continues to gain traction in the Granite State.
“He seems normal to us,” he said, “but I think his message travels well.”