Commentary

Pete Buttigieg is laying the groundwork to run for… something

Secretary Pete Buttigieg
Secretary Pete ButtigiegPhoto: Shutterstock

There’s never been any question that Pete Buttigieg is playing the long game, with an eye on the White House. (After all, he ran for president on the basis of being mayor of the 327th largest city in the country.) So it comes as no surprise that the current Secretary of Transportation has been quietly building the infrastructure for a future run for office.

According to a report in Politico, allies of Buttigieg have established both a dark money group and a PAC with an eye to being ready for whatever Buttigieg’s future ambitions may be. The groups, Win the Era Action Fund and Win the Era, are relatively low-key, in keeping with Buttigieg’s public role of being a foot soldier for President Joe Biden.

But the groups have recruited some powerful Democratic figures, including Swati Mylavarapu, the investment chair of Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, and Nicole Fox, a top campaign fundraiser. Fox was also co-executive producer of Mayor Pete, the documentary about Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign. 

The groups are a way for Buttigieg to prepare for his next electoral bid without being too obvious about it. The question is what exactly are his options.

The obvious one would be another presidential bid. In this scenario, the groups would be a kind of Plan B in the event that Biden decides not to run again.

Buttigieg would not be alone in that calculation. Other Democrats are also quietly laying the groundwork for a campaign in the event that Biden decides not to run again. Even if Biden does announce that he will seek re-election, at age 80 he could find his plans upset by fate.

Of course, Buttigieg would have his own issues running in 2024. For one thing, the new primary calendar is a lot less favorable to him than the 2020 version was. While being in the Cabinet gives Buttigieg valuable Washington experience, being Secretary of Transportation is hardly the natural stepping stone to the Oval Office.

That leaves statewide office in Michigan, where Buttigieg has established residency. His odds of success in a race there are much higher than they would be in deep red Indiana. Both the governorship and both U.S. Senate seats are held by Democrats.

There are races that Buttigieg could enter in Michigan – one for certain and one potentially. With her re-election victory last month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is unable to run for a third term under state law. That means Buttigieg could definitely run for governor in 2026.

The other possibility may be more to Buttigieg’s liking and would be sooner, but it’s still to be determined. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is up for re-election in 2024, at which point she will be 74. Should she decide to retire, her seat would be up for grabs.

Whatever the opportunity is, Buttigieg will no doubt be prepared. Or perhaps he may make his own. There’s always the chance he could trade up to a more prominent position in a second Biden administration.

One thing is for certain: Buttigieg hasn’t run his last race for the White House. It’s just a question of what other races intervene first.

 

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