Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., who has become the buzziest candidate of late in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, offered his own take Tuesday on his rapid rise.
“I think I’ve gone from being viewed as, you know, adorable six weeks ago to now plausible,” Buttigieg said during a wide-ranging interview on CNN.
His assessment came in response to a question about his greatest weakness as a candidate in the crowded Democratic field, which includes some far more seasoned politicians many years his senior.
“Up until now, I thought it was that nobody knew who I was or could say my name. I think that’s starting to change,” Buttigieg said, before acknowledging that he still needs to build credibility with voters who may find him likable but think he looks too young to be commander in chief.
“I’m still very different than what most people picture when they picture a president,” he said. “That’s part of the idea, is that we need something different, but that also creates a lot of extra work to do that I just wouldn’t have to do if I were somebody who went to work in Washington every day for years or if I had a little more gray up here.”
Buttigieg added that he thinks he needs to “give people a kind of permission to vote in a way that’s not traditional.”
During the CNN interview, Buttigieg also acknowledged that his campaign must do more to reach out to nonwhite voters. “We need to invite more people in to the process,” he said.
In recent weeks, Buttigieg has seen a rapid rise in his poll numbers and has drawn notice for a $7 million fundraising haul in the first quarter of the year. His campaign said he raised an additional $1 million in the four hours after making a formal announcement of his candidacy Sunday in South Bend.
In national polls and early nominating-state polls, Buttigieg still trails former vice president Joe Biden, who has yet to announce a White House bid, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has officially entered the Democratic race.