This Isn’t Just Another Buttigieg Bump

The mayor’s supporters argue that he has the singular ability to bring a fractured Democratic Party together. But first they’ll have to convince everyone else that’s true.

Listening to the radio on her drive home from work back in January, 48-year-old Brooke Clagett caught the tail end of an interview with a man she couldn’t identify. “I was just stunned by how, on every subject that he discussed, he sounded reasonable and thoughtful,” Clagett told me last night. She pulled up in front of her house, but she didn’t go inside: “It was one of those classic driveway moments where you stay in the car to get to the end of the interview to find out who the hell it was.”

The man turned out to be Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Fans I’ve spoken with have sometimes talked about their first time hearing Buttigieg in the same way someone might describe a religious experience. But Buttigieg’s success in the presidential primary has, in some ways, been miraculous: A little-known Midwest mayor who decided less than a year ago to run for president is now leading polls in the first two voting states. And yesterday, Clagett, who first heard his voice 10 months ago, was the happy host of a crowded pro-Buttigieg debate-watch party at Hank’s Oyster Bar in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

“I feel very strongly that Pete would make the best president,” said Clagett, an attorney who co-runs a Facebook group called “DC for Pete” that has become a grassroots organization. “It’s worth my while to throw my energies behind him. He’s not going away.”

“This is a movement,” said James Sands, who leads the group with Clagett. “He’s articulate. He’s smart. He’s the real deal.”

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