Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg drew a big crowd in Manchester Friday night.
The South Bend, Indiana mayor has campaigned here before, but has become a center of media attention in recent days. His meet and greet was originally planned for a local brewery, and was moved to the Currier Museum of Art to accommodate more people.
Still, at least a hundred didn’t fit inside, so Buttigieg made a quick speech to that crowd, standing on a bench amid flashing cameras and chants of “President Pete!”
“We’ve got to have a new vocabulary – not different values, because the values of our party are the right values,” Buttigieg said. “But maybe we’ve got to find a new way to talk about some of those things.”
Inside the museum, he emphasized his past military service and the story of his marriage to his husband in front of another couple hundred voters. And he said his “bumper sticker values” are freedom, security and democracy.
He described freedom in the sense of “freedom to” and not just “freedom from”; security in terms of climate change, cyber threats and violent white nationalism; and democracy through expanded voting rights, less gerrymandering and, as Buttigieg and other candidates have proposed, prioritizing the popular vote over the electoral college.
“And I believe that message is resonating from coast to coast, because every time we arrange a little meet and greet, we wind up with a rally,” he said.
He asked voters to join him in winning “not just an election but an era,” and to “build an intergenerational alliance committed to making sure the future is better than the past.”
As the 37-year-old mayor of a post-industrial Midwestern college town of just over 100,000, Buttigieg is youngest candidate in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he holds a lower elected office than most of his competition.
But voters like Jim Winters of South Berwick, Maine, said being a mayor has taught Buttigieg how to be accountable and hands-on.
“Not only does he have great innovative ideas, but he appeals to that middle group of people that aren’t so extreme one way or another, so I think he’d represent the country really well,” Winters says.
Buttigieg has stressed that he wants to explain his values to voters before rolling out specific policy ideas.
Some voters said they’re looking forward to hearing those details. But others are willing to wait.
Brandon Smith of Newmarket is 23 and says Buttigieg understands his generation’s struggles. He says he likes Buttigieg’s message of unity more than that of his competition.
“I’ve seen most of them speak at this point, and I think his message is a little bit more forthright and clear of exactly what he wants as a president, as opposed to the others, who are kind of just jumping around between different issues sometimes,” Smith says.
Buttigieg is expected to make his bid for president official on April 14 in South Bend, before returning to New Hampshire the following weekend.