Indiana’s Pete Buttigieg offers his youth as advantage in race for White House

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke at a meet-and-greet event Saturday in Raymond, N.H.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke at a meet-and-greet event Saturday in Raymond, N.H.

RAYMOND, N.H. — More than 100 people crammed into a meeting space about the size of a generous suburban living room on Saturday, as voters gathered to hear from one of several Democratic candidates visiting the Granite State over Presidents Day weekend.

Pete Buttigieg, the candidate they came to hear, is among the most unlikely and ambitious of those crisscrossing the state that holds the nation’s first primary election. Just 37 and openly gay, with his husband in tow as he met New Hampshire voters, Buttigieg is in his second term as mayor of South Bend, Ind., and has no experience running for national office.

Rather than downplay his youth and relative inexperience, Buttigieg leaned into his identity as a millennial American, pointing out that his generation will be living with the consequences of the government’s actions for far longer than the generation that today holds much of the power.


“I think a lot about how the world’s going to look in 2054 — that’s when I get to the current age of the current president, God willing,” he said. “And I’m afraid that a lot of decisions have been made right now in Washington as though the question of what our country will look like then is somebody else’s problem.”

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Anyone who expected the mayor of a medium-sized Midwestern city to offer modest, incremental solutions to the nation’s woes was surely disappointed.

Buttigieg instead expressed support for a constitutional amendment to change campaign finance laws, an embrace of ramped-up efforts to combat climate change, and a new federal law protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.

Buttigieg also suggested that as a Midwesterner from a city hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs, he has a greater insight than most into what those lost opportunities do to communities and to workers.

“We need to reckon with the fact that people aren’t just losing their income — they’re losing their identity,” he said. “And I believe that helps to explain everything from strange election results to the opioid crisis.”


The message appeared to go over well with the standing-room-only crowd, including Manchester voter Rich Sigel.

“I thought he was incredibly articulate,” Sigel said. “And I thought his framing of the vision around security, and democracy, and freedom was really thoughtful. . . . He’s got a really strong presence and seems to connect well with people.”

Monique Greilich, of Salisbury, Mass., said Buttagieg is an early front-runner for her support, though she also admires Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Greilich laughed as she pictured President Trump forced to surrender the reins of power to Buttigieg.

“I’d like to see Pete standing next to Trump with the Bible on Inauguration Day,” she said, breaking up into chuckles. “The transfer of power. I think that would be a great symbol.”

Ultimately, Greilich pledged, she will support any candidate who wins the Democratic nomination.


“I just want to beat Trump,” she said.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.