The Democratic establishment and its donor class are desperately trying to head off the possibility of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren winning the party’s presidential nomination, as I noted here the other day. The problem is there aren’t many options but for the time being, with Joe Biden floundering in Iowa, Pete Buttigieg has emerged as the “moderate” candidate of choice.
Buttigieg winning the nomination seems like a long shot but Iowa’s insanely outsized role in the process — just over 170,000 people participated in the state Democratic caucuses four years ago — means that he could emerge as one of the few candidates standing if he does well there. It’s still hard to see him becoming the nominee, but it’s possible he’ll be around for a long time.
Buttigieg has been getting lots of friendly press coverage. In a recent two days ago, “Pete Buttigieg drives for the middle ground between Biden and Warren,” the Washington Post noted that Mayor Pete had “quickly put together one of the largest campaign operations on the ground, with more than 110 staffers and 21 offices, on par with Warren and Biden. He is spending heavily on television advertising in the state — financed by the more than $51 million he’s raised so far this year.”
A lot of conservatives also like Buttigieg and none more so than the Post‘s neocon columnist Jennifer Rubin. which tells you pretty much all you need to know.
For months, Rubin has been talking him up. Back on May 24, she wrote a column entitled “What makes Pete Buttigieg so effective?” Among the long list of compliments, Rubin said Buttigieg “stands out because he is remarkably disciplined, can effortlessly show expertise and projects authority on foreign affairs. Most of all, he displays the cool demeanor and wry humor that Democrats admired in President Barack Obama.”
A few days later, she praised him for creating a “media moment” by going on Fox News and “projecting the same calm, incisiveness and wit that have impressed other audiences.” By appearing on Fox, she wrote, he “implicitly made the argument for his own electability” by showing that “a religious mayor from the heartland knows the secret sauce for breaking through to working- and middle-class voters in the Midwest.”
In August, Rubin was back with an op-ed praising Buttigieg’s calm demeanor and other outstanding traits. “Mr. Buttigieg is the opposite of many of his opponents, and therefore stands out, a real advantage in a field that tops 20 people,” she wrote. “Mr. Buttigieg is composed and speaks in quiet but firm tones. Sen. Bernie Sanders yells for no apparent reason.”
Rubin ratcheted things up in October with three columns promoting Buttigieg. On the 2nd, she called him “the underdog to watch,” and said he was “smart and succinct enough in a debate to make trouble for the far-left candidates, thereby boosting his profile as one of the most adept combatants from the center-left. On the 15th, after one of the Democratic debates, she said he had “shined on foreign policy,” was “impassioned and on the money when it came to U.S. leadership in the world,” and “showed that to be a moderate doesn’t mean to lack passion.”
Her most recent love poem came October 21, when she wrote a column, “Pete Buttigieg is punching above his weight”:
It is worth underscoring that Buttigieg does not get many Brownie points in a Democratic primary for making a robust defense of U.S. leadership in the Middle East…Buttigieg has decided to be the grown-up, and incidentally, preserved his viability in the general election as sufficiently tough on national security.
Like the Democratic establishment, Rubin and some other conservatives want to defeat Donald Trump — but with someone they deem to be safe. (If Trump were to be impeached, of course, the conservative crowd would rally around the GOP nominee.) Buttigieg’s chief appeal is that he’s far more reliably pro-corporate than Sanders or Warren. One of his main campaign positions is opposing Medicare for All, while raking in over $500,000 in campaign money from the health care industry, more than any candidate (other than Trump, who has received $1.4 million).
He’s offered some tepid criticism of the tech industry but Netflix CEO Reed Hastings hosted a fundraiser for him earlier this year and he hired two staffers recommended by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. A look at his campaign staff shows that he’s hired at least six Google alumni, including National Political Director Stephen Brokaw, who previously was marketing manager for Grow with Google.
Get rid of Trump, but not with a textbook neoliberal centrist like Buttigieg.