The Pete Buttigieg surge, explained

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor enjoyed an unexpectedly good start to his campaign — thanks in no small part to a wave of breathless media coverage— but then faded out of the top-tier contenders. Until now.

Capitalizing on steady momentum in Iowa, Buttigieg is now leading polls there, per a RealClearPolitics average of the state. He’s also on the rise in New Hampshire, although Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden both are slightly ahead. He also was treated like an ascendant frontrunner toward the later part of Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, fielding attacks from other candidates on stage.

The picture is starkly different in national polls, where Buttigieg hasn’t yet cracked double digits in the RealClearPolitics average. This discrepancy drives home a key point: Buttigieg is gaining popularity in the first two, overwhelmingly white early voting states, but he has yet to gain traction in more diverse states where Biden, Warren, and Sen. Bernie Sanders are still leading. He’s still at single digits in Nevada and South Carolina polling averages, and a recent Quinnipiac poll of South Carolina shows him at zero percent among black voters there.

Buttigieg’s campaign chalks the numbers gap up to the fact that his time spent in Iowa and New Hampshire has made his name recognition go up, and the campaign believes more time on the ground in other states will have the same effect.

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