Commentary

The Democrats’ new primary calendar doesn’t do Pete Buttigieg any favors

Pete Buttigieg
Pete ButtigiegPhoto: Shutterstock

After the disastrous 2020 Iowa caucuses, it was only a matter of time before the Democrats revisited the order of their primaries. As a reminder, the state, which prides itself on being the first in the nation for the presidential race, failed to release results the night of the caucuses because newly introduced technology failed.

Still, the confusion helped Pete Buttigieg seize some momentum. He declared himself the winner of the caucuses (he did win) and used it to bolster his campaign in New Hampshire (where he came in second to Sen. Bernie Sanders).

Buttigieg isn’t going to have the advantages he had in those states the next time he runs for president. Under the new map outlined by the Democrats, the presidential race will begin in South Carolina. That is the state where Buttigieg’s campaign died after he finished in the single digits. It’s also the state where Joe Biden’s campaign rose from the dead and the party began to coalesce around the former VP as the nominee.

The other early states in the Democrats’ proposed map are, in order, New Hampshire and Nevada, three days after South Carolina, followed by Georgia and Michigan, which Buttigieg now claims as his home state.

While the Iowa debacle played a role in the decision to reorder the map, the decision also reflects the sense that placing so much weight on Iowa and New Hampshire at the outset was not reflective of the party’s demographics. Both states are disproportionately white, while the Black voters are core to the party’s success.

Unfortunately for Buttigieg, Black voters were also core to the failure of his candidacy. Buttigieg was a darling of the coastal bastions, but he never connected with Black voters in any comparable way. While some of his supporters suggested that homophobia played a role in his struggles to gain traction with Blacks, the real problem seems to have been that he had never really established any deep ties to the community despite his national ambitions.

No doubt, Buttigieg has been working overtime to correct that deficiency. As Transportation Secretary and a primary spokesperson for the president’s infrastructure package, he’s been pushing its benefits to minority-owned businesses. He has also established his own PAC to fund candidates. All five of his PAC’s first endorsements in the midterms were candidates of color.

Of course, the person who most benefits from the new primary calendar is Vice President Kamala Harris. But Harris has her own problems as a candidate, including an underwhelming performance (even for a VP).

With Biden sending strong signals that he intends to run in 2024, Buttigieg has plenty of time to build his resume. His move to Michigan seems to have been done with an eye to running for office there, although there are no obvious openings soon. But at age 40, Buttigieg has time on his side.

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