In a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, Pete Buttigieg has emerged as a dark horse for the 2020 nomination. The 37-year-old mayor from South Bend, Ind., has skyrocketed past several candidates, climbing to third in Emerson’s latest Iowa poll ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

Buttigieg has also seen a huge spike in interest on Google. In the past two weeks, his name was searched more than the prior 93 combined. Yet even today, he’s received one quarter as many newspaper mentions as Sen. Warren, and fewer than half of Democrats have even heard his name.

During a recent appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” he discussed his political rise and possible run for president:

Explaining his growing popularity, he notes, “Each election in many ways produces somebody who is the reverse of what we just had.” A former Rhodes scholar and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, the Indiana native certainly fits the bill.

Buttigieg has not shied away from challenging his own party. Last week, Democratic strategist Nick Merrill took him to task for his past criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

At the time, Buttigieg told The Washington Post, “Donald Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy.” He added, “At least he didn’t go around saying that America was already great, like Hillary did.”

Asked over the weekend to respond to Merrill, Buttigieg was quick to note that he supported Clinton for president and had “enormous respect” for her. But while he acknowledged  the media’s failures in the run-up to the 2016 election, he stood by his remarks that Clinton’s strategy was fundamentally flawed.

“[They] focused more about the individuals, much more about all the problems with Donald Trump and much less about the concerns of voters and especially here in the industrial Midwest,” he said. “I think a lot of people perceived our campaign, the Democratic campaign, as basically saying that everything was just fine and that we should just believe in the system, and that was unconvincing. So even though people knew that the president wasn’t a great character, I think a lot of folks voted for him just to kind of burn the house down because the system had let us down in so many ways.”

Buttigieg has yet to offer a detailed list of policy proposals, but he has distinguished himself by signaling a willingness to expand the size of the Supreme Court from nine to 15 judges. In Buttigieg’s plan, the court would have five Democratic appointees and five Republican ones, with those 10 justices appointing an additional five. He has also expressed a willingness to abolish the Electoral College.

Listen to Buttigieg explore some of the biggest issues the country faces today here and here.


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