IOWA CITY — Calling himself “an unlikely figure” to become president, Pete Buttigieg called on voters who believe in the traditional American values to join him in not only winning the next election, but winning an era.
“We are lucky and unlucky enough to live in a moment of transition between whatever we had and whatever is next,” the South Bend, Ind., mayor told a packed house Saturday in Iowa City. “The reason everything is so confused and so frightening and so divided and dark is that we’re pretty much on one of those blank pages between chapters in the American story.
“So whatever we do now will decide not just what the next four years looks like, but what like but the next 40 years will look like,” Buttigieg told more than 500 people at the Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon. “That’s why we’ve just not got to win an election, but win the era for our values.”
Republicans have made claims on those values and Buttigieg is reclaiming them, said Sarah Prineas, who introduced him.
Buttigieg “doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the giant, orange elephant in the room,” she said. “He is a uniter. He makes us feel like we’re in this together.”
Buttigieg, who made a stop at the Iowa City farmers’ market ahead of the rally, contends his rhetoric about values appeals to not only his Democratic audiences but to voters “who are not tribal, committed partisans.”
“Think about how many Iowa Obama-Trump voters there were,” he said in an interview later. “That tells you there are a lot of people ready to vote in any number of ways.”
Indianans, he said, voted for both Barack Obama and then Donald Trump, but also voted for Mike Pence for governor and Buttigieg for mayor.
By appealing to shared values “like freedom and security and democracy and faith and family ... means there is more to reaching out to independents than moving into the center.”
“These are things that don’t belong to one party unless we surrender them on my side of the aisle,” Buttigieg said. “If we do that, we shouldn’t be surprised that someone family oriented or faith oriented of shooting oriented thinks the Republicans are the only ones speaking to them.”
That’s why the mayor of a mid-sized Midwestern industrial city who has deployed wartime military experience might be the Democratic nominee best able to connect with those voters, Buttigieg said.
His military experience was one reason Tina Clawson whose husband is retired military, was in the audience. A Phoenix resident who was in Iowa to attend a niece’s high school graduation, Clawson appreciates Buttigieg’s intelligence.
“He’s calm and comes across as articulate,” she said. “He’s the real deal.”
Republicans weren’t as generous in their assessment of Buttigieg’s campaign swing through Iowa.
“Pete Buttigieg hasn’t been properly vetted by the American people yet, but we already know he’s fully embracing the 2020 Democratic platform of late-term abortion, government-run health care, abolishing the Electoral College and court packing,” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said. He predicted that the more Iowans learn about Buttigieg “the more they’ll realize he’s just another out-of-touch Democrat fixated on smearing President Trump while embracing socialist policies.”
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