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Pete Buttigieg and Faith: The New Obama?

04-16-2019
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South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (AP Photo)
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (AP Photo)

ANALYSIS

More than a decade ago, a man by the name of Barack Obama burst onto the political scene with charisma and communication skills that propelled him to the presidency. Part of the package that he was intent on selling voters was a, 'love your neighbor' strategy, having compassion for your fellow man. 

Fast-forward to the 2020 race for president and you now have another presidential candidate, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, echoing many of those similar Christian themes. 

"Buttigieg is talking about compassion," said CBN Chief Political Analyst David Brody. "A lot of the criticism of Donald Trump is that his policies have not been compassionate. I think that might be the way he interjects faith and talks about the compassion parts of the Bible but maybe get away from some of the thornier issues that he'll have to confront from a biblical perspective as well."
 
Other Democrats running for president in 2020 are discussing faith but Buttigieg is different in one key way: he's aggressively pushed the topic into the national conversation and he's doing it as a gay man running for president. That, in itself, is distinctive. 

"He's going into uncharted territory," Brody noted. "What I mean by that is that he has been the one to aggressively interject his faith into the national dialogue and conversation from a Democrat perspective. We haven't seen that in a while so we don't know how that's going to play out."
 
In 2008, Barack Obama won 24 percent of the white evangelical vote. He did it by discussing his faith openly and effectively. He spoke with CBN News four times during that campaign, unafraid or unashamed to share his biblical views on controversial matters.  

"Remember, back in the day with President Obama, it was, 'love your neighbor' it was all about compassion," Brody recalled. "Well, here comes Pete Buttigieg doing the same thing, talking about compassion quite often. Hillary Clinton did not talk about her faith in 2016 and it hurt her a lot for sure because you win elections on the margins. Pete Buttigieg is trying something different." 

Brody said there's a political opening for, "Mayor Pete" if he decides to take it. "If he just tries to play to the progressive Christian left, it's a small pie. He needs to come into the conservative evangelical sandbox and really start playing there and making the case for his compassionate side of his faith in that box because that's where the voters are, that's where the momentum is, that's where the energy is."
 
But overall, why exactly is Buttigieg rising in the polls and increasing his campaign coffers?  Brody has a theory. 

"He's authentic, he communicates well, he's a war veteran, he's from the Midwest and he has an ability to put the whole package together. I think he's going to be around for a while," he said. 

How long he can last will depend on how he handles the incoming fire, both from Democrats and Republicans. 

"He's passed the entrance exam to get into college, " Brody added. "He did well on the SAT. Now, we find out how the midterm exam goes and the final exam comes later on in the process. The questions get harder, the scrutiny gets tighter, the microscope gets larger and I think when you put all of that together, that's when we'll have a sense of whether or not he has the toughness for the fight."

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