Rising in polls and name recognition among Democratic voters, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially entered the 2020 race for president Sunday, hopeful he can achieve a feat that has proved elusive to many: pave a successful path from a city hall to the White House.
Buttigieg, a 37-year-old progressive small-town mayor in deep-red Indiana with a difficult-to-pronounce last name, unexpectedly raised $7 million in donations in the first quarter, and has surged to third place in recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Buttigieg is also one of the first openly gay candidates to vie for a major party's presidential nomination.
"It's time to walk away from the politics of the past, and toward something totally different. And so, that is why I'm here today," Buttigieg told a raucous group of more than 4,500 supporters at a rally in South Bend. "My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I am a proud son of South Bend, Indiana. And I am running for President of the United States."
Speaking inside a former automobile manufacturing plant turned tech-incubator, the millennial mayor crafted a not-so-thinly-veiled rebuke of President Trump and Republicans. Buttigieg denounced conservative politicians for offering Midwestern communities like his hometown an "impossible promise" based on resentment and nostalgia "to stop the clock" and halt the tectonic shifts reshaping the American economy and its workforce.
"The problem is, they're telling us to look for greatness in all the wrong places. Because if there is one thing the city of South Bend has shown, it's that there is no such thing as an honest politics that revolves around the word 'again,'" he added, referring to the president's signature slogan, "Make America Great Again."
Despite the torrential downpour outside the venue, the enthusiasm among the rally's attendees was palpable. Kyle Witzgiman, a volunteer for the mayor's presidential campaign, told CBS News he drove 13 hours from Arkansas to attend the South Bend rally.
Buttigieg's campaign recently announced 64 percent of his total donations came from contributions of $200 or less. His husband Chasten, who has become a breakout Twitter sensation of the 2020 race, tweeted his thanks to donors, writing, "Thank you friends, we're just getting started." The small-town mayor acknowledged that while other candidates in the field may have outraised him this quarter, his number is a big deal for the "underdog project."
"We are not part of the national political machine. We started with just about 20,000 people on our email list, and not many people even knew who I was. But as more and more people around the country begin to hear our bold vision for the future, more and more people are investing in this effort," Buttigieg said in a statement.
Buttigieg has also garnered media attention for his feud with Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor of Indiana who pursued anti-LGBT policies while he was in office. Buttigieg hasfor his opposition to gay marriage and gay rights, which Pence has said is informed by his Christian faith.
"I don't have a problem with religion, I'm religious too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people," Buttigieg said on "Ellen" last week.
Meanwhile, Pence accused Buttigieg of attacking his faith. "I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith or attacks on the president as he seeks the highest office in the land," Pence said.
Nicole Sganga, Emily Tillett and Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.