If so, the former mayor of tiny South Bend, Indiana, may look back on this moment as the peak of his political career, or the start of a long, hard slog that could take him all the way to the White House.
Supporters of Buttigieg, a military veteran and intellectual whose appeal recalls that of Barack Obama, see him as a fresh, upbeat voice of moderation who could potentially unite the party and unseat Donald Trump.
Critics say he is an inexperienced, policy-lite novice who worked as a management consultant for McKinsey, holds fundraisers in the “wine caves” of the super-rich, and has no record of the support among non-whites he would need to win the Democratic nomination and the November election.
The great unknown is whether the US would vote for a gay president. Those dismissing such worries point to Obama twice proving the US could elect a black man, and Hillary Clinton’s netting of 3m more votes than Trump in 2016, which showed a woman could win the popular vote. Further back, John F Kennedy overcame suggestions a Catholic could never win the White House.