By Amie Rivers, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
INDEPENDENCE — With just days to go until the first state chooses its party’s nominee for president, Pete Buttigieg made the case for why he should be Iowa Democrats’ pick Monday night.
“It’s extraordinary to think we’re just four days away from the Iowa caucuses after more than a year of campaigning,” Buttigieg told a crowd of 182 at the Heartland Acres Agribition Center in Independence on Thursday afternoon. “I think a lot of us — most of us — think we can do better than the guy in the White House right now.”
Currently polling at an average of third place — behind both U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden — Buttigieg sought to frame himself as more moderate and unifying than Sanders and, at the same time, a Washington outsider who won’t go “back to the same playbook” like Biden.
“What we need in order to win, and what we need in order to govern, is to unify the country and a president to guide us to get these big things done,” he said.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., was polling at an average of 15.8 percent as of Thursday, according to RealClearPolitics. Sanders is at an average of 23.8 percent, with Biden at 20.2 percent and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 14.6 percent
“Politics is not about who got the best zinger off on the debate stage, and it is not about the ups and downs in the polls,” Buttigieg said.
Instead, he stressed, it was about unifying the country.
“I went through three Republican governors and found a way to work with all three of them, and I think that’s what Americans expect of Washington,” Buttigieg said. “And so the whole challenge of this election is to get to where Washington meets our expectations, and part of that is sending in someone who hasn’t been there.”
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Joseph Shea, a high school student from West Union, was on his way to a college visit in Chicago with his mother when they decided to stop off to see Buttigieg. Shea will be old enough to vote in November and asked Buttigieg about his plans to combat the climate crisis.
“As the youngest presidential candidate, I take this very personally,” Buttigieg, who is 38, said, outlining his plans for the country to go “carbon neutral” by 2050, adding 3 million new “green” jobs and a volunteer Climate Corps, and funding new regulations on farmers to help in the effort. “We need to think about it as a matter of pride.”
Shea said after the event he initially was torn between Buttigieg and candidate Andrew Yang, but said he’ll “probably” now caucus for Buttigieg.
“I feel like the things he wants to do are a lot more realistic,” he said, noting Buttigieg’s stances on issues also “align more with what I believe.”
Dave Mueller of Quasqueton, a U.S. Navy veteran who served two tours in Vietnam in the late 1960s, said it was the first time he’d seen Buttigieg in person. It was enough to convince him to caucus for Buttigieg, a fellow veteran.
“He’s one of the only veterans running for office, and he’s also a young man with a lot of drive,” Mueller said.