Dover, New Hampshire – The first-in-the-nation primary state has a history in retail politicking and campaign whistlestops, but little in the way of big-dollar fundraisers. "The conventional wisdom is, you come here for votes, not money," yogurt mogul Gary Hirshberg told CBS News. "We built it and they came."
Even so, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is coming to New Hampshire for the money, too. He raised over $65,000 so far at a fundraiser Thursday night in Holderness, New Hampshire according to Hirshberg, who hosted the event. The co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, Hirshberg, who is the chairman of the world's leading organic yogurt producer, told CBS News he anticipates the fundraiser will bring in even more for Buttigieg. "I'll be surprised if we don't get over 100 thousand," Hirshberg said, adding, "I was pretty wowed."
Advertised as $2800 per seat, the intimate dinner of approximately 40 attendees brought together a group of influential New Hampshire activists and high-powered executives at the home of Gary and Meg Hirshberg, located on the outskirts of Squam Lake in Grafton County.
Before the dinner, the Hirshbergs hosted a cocktail hour "meet and greet" that was open to the public and required no donations – attended by 160 Granite Staters but closed to press.
"I don't think that voters in general and New Hampshire are that fixed on policies," Hirshberg told CBS News. "They're looking for a kind of person and a type of temperament." Expanding on what voters might find appealing about the millennial politician, Hirshberg paused. "It's not just 'fight, fight, fight.'" He said Buttigeig "just clicks" with financial backers and voters from the first-in-the-nation primary state seeking a candidate capable of attracting support in Midwestern swing states.
"To be more blunt about it, it was really five states that cost us the 2016 election," Hirshberg recalled. "We won the popular vote, but still by slim margins. Sophisticated donors and followers are spending far more attention to folks who do not look like the typical liberal, coastal Democrat." In reference to his own Hoosier roots, Hirshberg noted, "People who pay attention know that we lost this event in the Midwest last time around."
Buttigieg's appeal in the Granite state may extend beyond his atypical biography as a 37-year-old, openly gay Indiana native, former Rhodes Scholar and Afghanistan veteran. For some, including Hirshberg, it's Buttigieg's governing experience that's attractive. "We tend to look to people who have executive experience. A lot of us have been CEOs," Hirsherg said, commenting on Thursday night's audience. "There's a difference between senators and people who have governed – mayors who've run administrations."
There are three current or former governors, who have all run larger administrations than that of South Bend. But Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Colorado John Hickenlooper registered under 1% support in CBS News' most recent Battleground Tracker poll.
The yogurt entrepreneur and frequent political fundraiser has a history of backing successful Democratic nominees for president, hosting political fundraisers for decades. Hirshberg and his wife Meg organized fundraising events with then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2007, first lady Michelle Obama in 2011 and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2015. The dinner headlined by Michelle Obama broke New Hampshire fundraising records, collecting "several hundreds of thousands" for her husband's reelection campaign.
Buttigieg, the mayor of a city of just over 100,000, surpassed both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in second-quarter fundraising,from more than 294,000 donors. He headlined more than 70 fundraisers during the second quarter, including 20 grassroots events. This month alone, the once longshot candidate attended multiple fundraisers in Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington D.C. and New Hampshire.
The Buttigieg campaign did not immediately comment on the amount raised at the Holderness fundraiser.
Jack Turman and Sarah Ewall-Wice contributed to this report.