Is Pete Buttigieg becoming a significant factor in the 2020 Democratic primary?

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. File photo.

When South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg first started sounding like he was interested in getting the Democratic nomination for president, most people said, "Who?” And then they learned that he is openly gay and has a husband, Chasten, a fact which many people thought made him and unelectable marginal candidate at best.

Not anymore.

Fundraising is always thought of as a sign of a major candidate and an also-ran. So it was a big surprise that, in the first quarter, Buttigieg raised $7 million.

Chris Cillizza of CNN, commented today: “The South Bend mayor reported raising $7 million since establishing an exploratory committee to run for president in late January. That total came from 158,550 donors, with an average contribution of $36.35. Much of the fundraising jostling in a presidential race is about expectations, and at the start of the year, no one expected Buttigieg to come anywhere close to $7 million. No one.

“After all, he was an unknown mayor of a smallish city. (Sorry, Notre Dame fans!) That Buttigieg convinced more than 150,000 people to donate to him in a period of time when he was at 1% (if that) in most polling on the race is remarkable. Buttigieg was the momentum candidate for much of the past month; his fundraising will do nothing to slow that momentum, and might even increase it.”

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Calling him the momentum candidate may be a bit of a stretch, but Buttigieg is everywhere. He’s been on The View, had his own town hall in Austen at SXSW on CNN, and has appeared on numerous cable news channels, including Fox News.

He also hits the late night shows.

And what about the “gay thing” that everybody first thought when he announced? It doesn’t seem to be much of an issue.

Most Americans, NBC News reported yesterday, are okay with a gay presidential candidate. “As recently as 2006, when Buttigieg was 24 years old,” reported NBC, “more than half of Americans said they would be ‘very uncomfortable’ (34 percent) or have ‘reservations’ (19 percent) about a gay or lesbian person running for president.”

Today? “A combined 68 percent are either enthusiastic (14 percent) or comfortable (54 percent) with a candidate who is gay or lesbian,” says the network.

It’s not just younger voters driving the numbers, although 75 percent of them are “enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay candidate. Fifty-six percent of senior say they have no objections, according to NBC.

Given the fundraising, and his sexual orientation not appearing to be a big deal, we should watch the poll numbers and the Democratic debates to see what happens next with Pete Buttigieg.

Copyright The Gayly – April 2, 2019 @ 4 p.m. CDT.