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Buttigieg 2020? Don’t Rule It Out

South Bend mayor has been raising money, speaking on behalf of state-level Democratic candidates outside Indiana.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been hitting the campaign trail outside Indiana for fellow Democrats, and stirring speculation about a dark-horse run for president in 2020.

Only three mayors have ever gone on to be president, and all of them -- Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge -- had served as governors or senators before making the leap to national politics. The few mayors who have tried to directly from City Hall to the White House, including New York's Rudy Giuliani and Sam Yorty of Los Angeles, were mostly from giant metropolises, and still didn't go very far.

Buttigieg argues American elections are at a turning point where many of the old rules don't apply. He argues voters are more interested than ever in solutions from beyond Washington, and in turning over power to a new generation. And he contends the digital age is shattering traditional conservative-liberal alignments. As voters face more frequent job changes and less traditional job structures, he says, it shakes up the debate on issues from health care to personal economic security.

For now, Buttigieg isn't discouraging presidential speculation, but says his focus is on picking up where he left off last year in an unsuccessful bid for Democratic national chairman.

He's formed a political action committee to put into action the principles he laid out in the chairmanship campaign: emphasizing digital advertising and a rebuilding of the party's bench by supporting candidates for state offices. He says Democrats spent years focusing too much on holding the presidency while hemorrhaging nearly a thousand state legislative seats. Buttigieg says he expects to support candidates in half-a-dozen states where Democrats have the chance to flip control of a legislative chamber or break Republican supermajorities.

And Buttigieg has accepted speaking engagements for state parties or candidates in Ohio, Kansas and South Dakota.

Buttigieg says he'll decide at the end of the year whether to run for a third term as mayor. After that, he'll turn his attention to whether to pursue a presidential bid, or seek another office.

If Buttigieg were to run and win, he'd not only be the first mayor elected directly to the presidency, but would be the youngest president, at age 39 on Inauguration Day, and the first openly gay president.

(Photo by Derek Henkle/AFP/Getty.)

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