Former Mayor Pete (formerly known as “Mayor Pete” until he retired, at the age of 37, from his post in South Bend on January 1) has been barnstorming Iowa this week. While his rivals Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders were trapped in Washington for the impeachment trial, Former Mayor Pete held 25 campaign events across the state between Monday and Friday in an attempt to regain momentum his campaign lost over the past six weeks.
Since early December, Buttigieg slipped from first place to third in the RealClearPolitics average of Iowa polls, as he dropped from 24.0 percent to 15.8 percent. Amy Klobuchar’s decision to throw a binder (figuratively, for once) at Buttigieg’s head at the December 19 Democratic debate seems to have had an effect. But with a few days to go until the Iowa caucuses, Buttigieg has decided to ignore the Minnesota senator who is making gains at his expense and is instead taking direct aim at the two men leading him in the polls: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
“Vice President Biden has been talking about the idea that we can’t afford to take a risk on somebody new. But I believe history has shown us that we can’t afford to take the risk of falling back on the familiar and expecting the same Washington playbook to help us against this threat,” Buttigieg told voters in Marshalltown late Thursday afternoon. “Senator Sanders, speaking to goals that we all share, has offered the politics that says it’s all or nothing. It’s my way or the highway—at a moment when we finally have an American majority that actually believes that we can and should look to the public sector to make sure everybody has insurance. They’re just not so sure about the idea of kicking people off their private plans.”
Buttigieg’s attacks on Biden and Sanders may be too little, too late. His deft attack on Elizabeth Warren’s evasiveness on Medicare for All at the October Democratic debate sent her spiraling downward, but it’s not clear that many people are paying attention to his (mild) attacks on Biden and Sanders. At the two Buttigieg campaign events I attended on Thursday, he drew small crowds. And the press isn’t giving his attacks much coverage either: The front page of Friday’s Des Moines Register covered President Trump’s rally, which was attended by thousands on Thursday night, and didn’t even mention the Democratic presidential candidates.
If Buttigieg wanted to take on Biden and Sanders, he may have missed his shot when a lot of voters were paying attention at the January Democratic debate, where he decided to play it safe. By the end of February, Former Mayor Pete may also be known as Former Presidential Candidate Pete.