Buttigieg Grabs Second Place N.H. Finish, Close On Sanders' Heels

Feb 12, 2020

Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters at Nashua Community College after finishing in second place in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary.
Credit Erika Janik/NHPR

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg finished in a close second place behind Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 New Hampshire Democratic Primary, winning 24 percent of the vote compared to 26 percent for Sanders.

And as he made clear in a celebratory speech to supporters Tuesday evening, Buttigieg heads out of the Granite State with his sights clearly set on Sanders.

Buttigieg won over a lot of New Hampshire voters in the final days of the campaign with his message of unity. And when he took the podium at Nashua Community College Tuesday night, he congratulated his Democratic opponents.

“I admired Sen. Sanders when I was a high school student,” Buttigieg told the crowd. “I respect him greatly to this day, and I congratulate him on his strong showing tonight.”

But as his speech went on, Buttigieg’s tone shifted. He suggested Senator Sanders would further divide the country, and he sat back as his supporters filled the gymnasium with cheers.

“In this election season, we have been told by some that you must either be for a revolution or you are for the status quo, but where does that leave the rest of us?” Buttigieg said. “Most Americans don’t see where they fit in that polarized vision, and we can’t defeat the most divisive president in modern American history by tearing down anybody who doesn’t agree with us 100 percent of the time.”

Buttigieg and Sanders are clearly very different: Sanders describes himself as a Democratic socialist, while Buttigieg tries to reach out to what he calls “future former Republicans.”

But Buttigieg has also tried to frame himself as an outsider, a candidate without DC credentials.

“So many of you decided that a middle class mayor and a veteran from the industrial midwest was the right choice to take on this president, not in spite of that experience, but because of it,” Buttigieg told the election night crowd.

Sanders isn’t Buttigieg’s only problem after New Hampshire. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar enjoyed a surprising third-place finish in New Hampshire, just a few points behind him.

And it’s still unclear how well Buttigieg will do in states that are much more diverse than New Hampshire. Not all of his supporters are concerned about that. Calley Nye flew to New Hampshire from California to help get out the vote for Buttigieg.

“I know the media likes to share this narrative of Pete with black voters, but every person of color I met here when I was canvassing is very pro-Pete,” Nye said. “So I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people.”

Nye says South Carolina and Nevada will give Buttigieg a chance to prove he can pull together a diverse coalition – including former Republicans like her.