A 37-year-old fellow named Pete Buttigieg appeared on a network morning show last week to talk a little about his new book, but mostly about running for president in 2020.
He has been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, for seven years, and is no dummy. He attended Harvard, earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford and served as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. He’s also gay, which shouldn’t be an issue but will be for some voters.
Among other challenges facing Buttigieg is the fact that his name is almost as tricky to pronounce correctly as it is to spell. I can sympathize.
And while a candidate’s name shouldn’t be a drawback either, it sometimes is. During the primaries Buttigieg will face a numbingly long list of Democratic rivals, many of whom who are more recognizable and pronounceable: Biden, Sanders, Booker, Warren, Harris, Brown, Yang . . . and so on.
Even optimistic John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, has a last name that imbeds in one’s memory more readily than does Buttigieg.
Still, the whole point of launching a presidential campaign early is to establish one’s self as a national figure before the voting starts. In 2007, I gave Barack Obama zero chance of winning the White House in 2008. However, in 2015, I gave the exact same odds to Donald Trump, whose name was known by everyone who owned a TV or a laptop.
Some say that the last two presidential elections proved by their improbable results that just about anybody with enough self-confidence, energy and determination can win.
Absolutely not true.
Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee in 2016, wasn’t merely a long shot. She was a no-shot, and she knew it. By siphoning Democratic votes in a few swing states, she helped give the Big Orange Trumpster his majority in the Electoral College.
He should have sent her flowers, or at least a spa-day coupon for Mar-A-Lago.
Stein is still whining about being blamed for pursuing a hopeless, ego-driven campaign that set back her environmental and reform agenda by decades. If she runs again next year, she’d be lucky to get more votes than the referee who blew the pass-interference call in the Saints-Rams playoff game.
A similar legacy shadows consumer activist Ralph Nader, whose flaky 2000 presidential bid was doomed from the first day, and ultimately became a numerical factor in deciding the Bush-Gore fiasco.
Also running for the Green Party, Nader received 97,421 votes in Florida, most of them Democratic crossovers. If only 538 of those geniuses had stuck with their party, Al Gore would have been president instead of George Bush.
Clearly, both Gore and Hillary Clinton ineptly steered their own campaigns in directions that left openings for third parties to tip narrow margins in battleground states. If they’d been better candidates, their races wouldn’t have been close enough for Stein or Nader to affect.
A new potential spoiler is eyeing the 2020 contest. He is Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, who says he might run as an independent.
Schultz has already taken steps toward an official announcement: He has formed the ever-popular “exploratory committee,” and recently published the obligatory here’s-my-uplifting-vision-of-America book.
Unlike Trump, Schultz is a billionaire with actual billions. But so is Russ Perot, who twice failed to capture the presidency by taking on the Democratic and Republican nominees.
Not surprisingly, Schultz insists things are different now. He says the nation is ready to abandon the far left and far right in favor of a centrist who isn’t controlled by either of the major parties.
At this stage of the race, Schultz has better prospects than porn actress Cherie DeVille, who last week ended her 17-month quest for the White House.
Although boosted by a zippy campaign slogan (“Make America F------ Awesome Again!”), DeVille was unable to mount a charge. She was characteristically upbeat when she told the Washington Examiner: “Maybe if the cultural climate changes, I can try again.”
Why not? Better her than Stein or Nader.
Pete Buttigieg of South Bend is betting the tide has already changed in his favor. He doesn’t have a Starbucks fortune to bankroll his campaign, or a name as unforgettable as Cherie Deville, But he’s got his own catchy theme with which he hopes to energize voters:
So, if you’re feeling it, America, run right out and buy his book. There probably won’t be a line.