Buttigieg gets choked up after early Iowa results show him with slight lead

By Quint Forgey

Pete Buttigieg appeared to become emotional during a campaign event in New Hampshire on Tuesday, arguing that his early lead in the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses “validates” a sense of belonging for children in America who feel out of place in their communities or among members of their families.

The remarks from the former South Bend mayor, known for his intellectual bearing and steady demeanor on the campaign trail, came roughly a half-hour after the Iowa Democratic Party released the first, partial vote count from Monday night’s caucuses.

Those delayed results showed Buttigieg locked in a close contest with Bernie Sanders but still atop the primary pack, achieving 27 percent of the state delegate count with 62 percent of precincts reporting.

“Just in case you haven’t been glued to your phone the last few minutes, I want you to hear something from me,” Buttigieg told supporters after taking the stage in Laconia.

“A little later than we anticipated, but better late than never, official verified caucus results are coming in from the state of Iowa,” he continued. “They’re not complete, but results are in from a majority of precincts, and they show our campaign in first place.”

Buttigieg went on to promote his presidential bid's themes of national unity and to reflect upon the degree to which his campaign had ballooned since he launched his White House run early last year.

“It validates the idea that we can expand a coalition not only unified around who it is we’re against, but around what it is that we’re for,” he said of the preliminary outcome in Iowa, before briefly choking up.

“And it validates for a kid somewhere in a community, wondering if he belongs or she belongs or they belong in their own family,” he continued, “that if you believe in yourself and your country, there’s a lot backing up that belief.”

Buttigieg is the first openly gay major presidential contender to earn primary delegates and has previously spoken about the positive effects of his candidacy on young people struggling to come to terms with their identities.

His raw reaction to the latest Iowa developments followed an intense day of jostling between his campaign and Sanders’, with both candidates seeking to project triumph after the caucus verdict was substantially delayed by a technical meltdown.