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Pete Buttigieg ended his presidential bid on Sunday with an impromptu rally in his hometown of South Bend, Ind.
The 38-year-old former mayor outperformed many of his more seasoned competitors en route to coming in first place in the Iowa caucuses and finishing a close second to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. But disappointing results in Nevada and South Carolina showed that his path to the presidency had, in his words, “narrowed to a close.”
Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate to mount a competitive run for the presidency, rose from relative obscurity on a message of unity and “generational change.” He ran on a progressive policy platform that broke from Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, his more liberal competition, on key issues such as health care.
On Monday night, he endorsed Joe Biden for president.
Why there’s debate
Political observers broadly agree that Buttigieg’s run in the Democratic presidential primary sets him up for a bright political future. Where that future leads is less obvious. Buttigieg’s term as South Bend mayor ended in January. His short-term prospects may depend on who becomes the nominee for his party. By swiftly endorsing Biden, he has set himself up to be the former vice president’s running mate or to be named to a Cabinet post in a possible Biden administration, experts say. Bernie Sanders, whom Buttigieg criticized heavily in recent weeks, may not be as open to bringing him into the fold.
Other possibilities for Buttigieg include a run for the House of Representatives or Senate, though winning a statewide race in a red state like Indiana would likely be a challenge for any Democrat. There is, of course, the possibility — if not likelihood — that Buttigieg will run for president again. A chant of “2024! 2024!” broke out among the crowd during his rally on Sunday night.
Regardless of his next political pursuit, Buttigieg has already cemented a legacy for breaking ground as the first gay candidate to reach the top tier of the presidential race, some LGBTQ activists say.
Buttigieg is now one of the stars of the Democratic Party
“Buttigieg fell short in his quest for the nomination, but no Democrat this cycle did more to boost his political career. The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., entered the race with no name recognition, natural constituency or personal wealth. He leaves it as one of the party’s brightest young stars.” — Alex Altman and Charlotte Alter, Time
Another presidential run is likely
“Yes, Buttigieg will almost certainly run for president again.” — Chris Cillizza, CNN
He increased his odds of a Cabinet post or VP slot by backing Biden
“With no realistic path forward, Buttigieg has fallen on his sword, hoping his act of political seppuku will smooth Biden’s way to the White House — and bring with it a plum appointment, no doubt.” — Branko Marcetic, Jacobin
He could become president if he takes time to cultivate support from minority voters
“Buttigieg could run for president 40 years from now, but likely will not have to wait that long. He has years in which to gain experience, maybe as a Cabinet member, a leader of a nonprofit or an elected lawmaker. His great failing — the inability to transcend racial barriers — can certainly be addressed, although not within the space of weeks or months.” — Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
Indiana’s conservative majority makes it tough for him to win statewide office
“Those close to Mr. Buttigieg see no obvious political next step in Indiana for the former mayor of a relatively Democratic enclave in a Republican state. In 2018, Joe Donnelly, then a Democratic senator from Indiana, lost his re-election fight by nearly six points — a harbinger of how hard it can be even for a popular figure like Mr. Buttigieg to win statewide.” — Lisa Lerer, New York Times
Buttigieg will be remembered for breaking barriers for LGBTQ candidates
“At some point, the fact that a presidential candidate is LGBT will be a footnote rather than a headline. When that time comes, we will have Pete Buttigieg to thank for blazing the trail. Until that time, he will be an inspiration to LGBT people everywhere, who never thought they would see someone like themselves on the path to the White House, but did.” — Michael J. Stern, USA Today
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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Santiago Flores/South Bend Tribune via USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters