Pete Buttigieg Tackles the Rural Vote in Winterset, IA
WINTERSET, Iowa – Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been hitting Iowa hard in the months (now weeks) leading up to the caucuses. Buttigieg held a handful of town halls in Iowa leading up to the seventh Democratic presidential debate on Jan. 14. While traversing the state, he visited cities and towns, big and small, including Winterset, IA (pop. 5,300).
The event, which was held around noon on a Monday, managed to draw a crowd of over 350. Buttigieg was introduced by a campaign organizer local to the Winterset area as well as a Winterset elected official, who used her time on stage hyping up Winterset’s tourist attractions – the town square and the covered bridges, made famous in the 1995 film The Bridges of Madison County.
Any Iowan who is familiar with the formula of a candidate rally knows that the candidate can’t and won’t walk off the stage without highlighting the unique electoral responsibility of Iowa voters. Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status means that its voters are shouldered with the task of vetting the candidates and also that they are the only voters who cast their votes blind, without knowledge of how other states have voted.
Buttigieg delivered largely the same stump speech he has been delivering across the four early states, emphasizing that the next president needs to be focused not only on beating Donald Trump, but also on tackling the systemic social divisions in our country that brought Trump to power in the first place. To tailor the event to the rural crowd, he emphasized rural policy and military service, as Buttigieg himself is a veteran and there were a handful of veterans in the crowd.
Many in the room were aware that this rally came on the heels of a confusing situation that had occurred the previous night at another Buttigieg rally in Des Moines. A group of protestors faked a medical emergency and used the attention to disrupt the event. When Buttigieg’s supporters attempted to drown out the shouts of the protestors, the protestors began to chant “black lives matter.”
After Buttigieg spoke, he took a handful of questions. On the sixth or seventh question, the microphone handler signaled to Buttigieg that this would be the last question. Buttigieg replied that he had actually promised the last question to a young boy in the front row dressed in Buttigieg’s signature crisp white shirt and light blue tie. When the microphone came to the boy, he began his question by saying he’s the “mayor” of his school in Urbandale. His question for Buttigieg was about what the climate would look like in 2100 when he turns 90 years old.
In recent months, Buttigieg has seen a rise and a subsequent fall in his Iowa polling numbers. Now that there’s arguably no presumptive Iowa caucus winner, the top-tier candidates are out in full force in an effort to come out on top on Feb. 3 and hopefully sell themselves as the one who can win the Democratic nomination.