A relatively unknown millennial mayor is cutting through a crowded field of 18 Democrats vying for their party’s presidential nomination and the chance to take on U.S. President Donald Trump in 2020.

Boasting an impressive resume – Harvard grad, Rhodes scholar, Afghanistan war veteran, multilingual McKinsey consultant, concert pianist, author of a New York Times bestseller – Pete Buttigieg has generated much enthusiasm among several top Democrats.

In just one month, Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., has transformed from being a long-shot to his party’s breakout star.

If elected, he would be the youngest and first openly gay occupant of the Oval Office, as well as the first candidate ever to leap from city hall to the White House.

Buttigieg, who officially launched his presidential run last weekend, has surged in the polls since a CNN town hall appearance in mid-March. Several recent polls show him climbing to third place behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden, who is expected to jump into the race next week.

In the last three months, the two-term mayor has raised an impressive $7 million – more than other seasoned candidates, including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker. Buttigieg boasts the fourth-best fundraising haul of the entire field.

But Buttigieg isn’t completely unknown. On his way out of office, U.S. President Barack Obama, who Buttigieg is sometimes compared to, included Buttigieg on a list of Democrats to watch in an interview with the New Yorker.

The meteoric rise of the mayor of South Bend – population: 100,000 – is not lost on Buttigieg.

“A month ago, we were just trying to get people to be able to say my name,” he said in an appearance on the Ellen Show earlier this month.

(For the record, it’s pronounced “boot-edge-edge,” “Buddha-judge,” “boot-a-judge” or “boo-tuh-judge,” according to a tweet from his husband, Chasten, a junior high school teacher.)

“He’s trying to pitch himself as a young millennial and a lot of Democratic voters think the party needs a generational shift,” said Mary Alice Parks, the deputy political editor of ABC News.


Buttigieg came out as gay in a 2015 column in his local newspaper, writing, “It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.”

At his first campaign stop in Iowa, anti-gay protesters heckled him, but he calmly brushed them off.

“The good news is the condition of my soul is up to God, but the Iowa caucuses are up to you,” he said.

Buttigieg has not shied away from criticizing Trump or his administration. During his CNN town hall appearance, he attacked Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian and former governor of Indiana, for his anti-LGBTQ record.

“How could he allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn-star presidency?” Buttigieg asked. “Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?”


Buttigieg has proposed abolishing the Electoral College and granting statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. He wants to scrap the filibuster and remake the Supreme Court so that each party nominates the same number of justices.

The right-wing media is casting him as the Democratic Party’s latest shiny object. Fox News host Tucker Carlson recently compared Buttigieg to a “hearty stew” of which voters wanted to consume “every last drop.”

As Buttigieg’s star rises, he will inevitably face more scrutiny.

His record on race has already drawn attention. Just a few months into his first term as mayor, Buttigieg demoted Darryl Boykins, the first black police chief of South Bend.

Buttigieg has cited a federal investigation of Boykins, who was alleged to have been secretly recording phone conversations inside the police department that captured police officers making racist comments about the chief. Boykins went on to sue the city for racial discrimination.

Now that Buttigieg is in the political spotlight, the pressure will be on for him to convince Democrats that he’s no flash in the pan.