IOWA — Tuesday night will be a sight that we haven’t seen before. Twelve Democratic presidential candidates will share the debate stage in Ohio. That is the most ever.
For South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, attacking other candidates or coming up with punchy one liners is not his chosen strategy for winning over voters on the debate stage.
Channel 13’s Monica Madden sat down one-on-one with Buttigieg. He explained how he is gearing up for the debate and what his biggest hurdles are for gaining traction in Iowa.
The fourth Democratic debate is on Tuesday. Obviously, this is a more crowded stage than ever. How, if anything, are you preparing differently to compete with more people. I know oftentimes it’s those one liners like ‘Hell yeah, we’ll buy back your AR-15s,’ or when candidates attack other ones that tend to grab headline attention. But do you feel the need to be more aggressive on stage for those moments?
For me it’s not about made-for-TV moments. It’s about making sure that Americans understand how their life would be different if I’m president versus the people I’m competing with. And I really try to keep the focus on that. Of course, we’re going to have contrasts. I’ve got differences of opinion with my fellow Democrats and I also want to make sure people understand why I am ready to fight this current president and the party in power right now. But I don’t think it has to be about poking holes in each other. I think there’s a way to do it that is respectful and also firm.
You have been one of the top standouts in fundraising, and in Iowa particularly, you’ve raised the most out of all of the Democrats. Now, the president still has raised more money in Iowa than the entire field. But what do these numbers say about your organization efforts in the Hawkeye State. And does that mean it will translate into votes?
I’m very proud that we’ve built the most extensive field operation in Iowa. We’ve got 22 field offices and over 100 organizers. They’re doing fantastic work and all of the fundraising work that candidates do. Especially in the early phase, it’s all about making sure that we have the resources to build out that kind of ground game. Now is when we’re putting that ground game to work. We were able to have a show of force at the Steak Fry that I think let people know just how many volunteers and supporters we’ve got. And as we go into the big dinner that’s coming up in November and all of the door knocking that’s got to go on between now and caucus day, I do believe that we are set up for success.
While your fundraising has been really strong in Iowa, in the last Des Moines Register poll you slipped up a little bit. Is there a disconnect there?
There are going to be some ups and downs in the polls between here and February and one thing we know is that the eventual nominee is almost never the front runner at this stage of the race. The important thing for me is to make sure that we’re getting our message out, and we’re very proud of the fact that I’ve been able to push past roughly 20 of my competitors so far even though nobody had heard of me in January. Now as we seek to climb the biggest hills of the campaign, I like our positioning, and we just got to keep working hard.
Despite the drama with Ukraine and the impeachment inquiry, Vice President Joe Biden has still been doing very strong in the polls. Some see you as the leading moderate alternative to him. How do you plan to win over faithful Biden voters who may be reluctant to trust a new fresh face?
Part of it is to make the case about how to win this election. Remember, every time the Democratic Party has won in the last 50 years, it’s been with a candidate who represented new ideas who hadn’t been in Washington for very long and who was leading from a new generation. It’s part of how we can mobilize a new majority to get this country to where it needs to go. And I think that there are a lot of voters who still put a lot of stock in name recognition and familiarity. But the more they learn about what I have to offer and what my campaign stands for, the more they seem to like it.