You would have to imagine that declaring candidacy for the Office of President of the United States is an extremely daunting task, a position not very well-suited for the faintest of vulnerable hearts. Now picture this: A mayor from South Bend, Indiana with no federal government experience declares candidacy for the presidency against an already-loaded pool of candidates, chock-full of household political lifers such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and President Obama’s former right-hand man Joe Biden. As Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced his intention to run for president in 2020, the first thing people asked themselves was, Now how in hell do you say that man’s last name? 

With all joking and mental pronunciation aside (it’s like “Boot-Edge-Edge,” a question so commonly asked that Buttigieg’s campaign even has merchandise playfully mimicking the pronunciation), of course Americans asked themselves who this man is. Additionally, people became a little weary at his lack of experience in politics on the national level. South Bend, Indiana squaring up against the cold-hearted, constituent-crazed Capitol Hill? Not much of a contest. Mayor Buttigieg’s intent to go for the presidency against such famous, long-term American politicians looked like a bad high school cafeteria scene; Buttigieg looked like the founder of the Rubik’s Cube Club went to talk to the offensive linemen about their poor performance the week prior.  

There are a few things that Mayor Pete isn’t – factors that could be crucial in the long run of his campaign. However, it’s time to focus on all the things he is- factors that prove him to be the most well-rounded and worthy candidate to take the Democratic ticket.  

The rundown: Mayor Buttigieg is an openly gay, Episcopalian, veteran, moderate liberal with undergraduate degrees from Oxford’s Pembroke College and Harvard University. Currently 37 years old, Buttigieg has been South Bend’s mayor since 2012. Buttigieg served as a Navy Reserve from 2009-2017 and went on deployment to Afghanistan in 2014. He married his husband Chasten in June 2018, approximately three years after he came out and became Indiana’s elected official. He can speak several languages (including Maltese, although I’m not sure how useful that is in Indiana), is a published author and plays guitar and piano.  

Beyond the dating profile info (which, funny enough, is where he met his husband – thanks, Hinge!), He runs on a platform designed around deep and traditionalist-shattering change on many topics. For instance, he is a strong proponent of ridding the national election process of the often-critiqued (and, in this writer’s opinion, recently flawed) electoral college and also wants to move towards single-payer healthcare (classically known as “Medicare for All”). He has vowed to have the United States re-enter the Paris Agreement and has a plan in place for the United States to double its clean electricity use by 2025, amongst other parts to his plan for combatting climate change. He has endorsed statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., as well as automatic voter registration. Simply put, his moderate-leaning views are fueled by his fiery passion to eliminate and repeal the numerous wrongdoings of the current administration.  

With less funding and name-brand support than other candidates have, how can he survive against the likes of the classic political names that debate and campaign before him? The answer is simple: Pete Buttigieg needs to keep being himself in a time where authenticity in Washington can’t be found within the realms of the district. Besides being the beloved, and increasingly popular, Mayor Pete, his ability to relate to citizens and believers of the American dream is what will continue to take him far. 

Buttigieg’s youthful yet well-versed, knowledgeable nature is refreshing in a political climate dominated by the stereotypical old, straight, white-male-clad Capitol Hill. His ability to charm a person of any background, hear of their life experiences and relay his platform to accommodate their identity and experiences is beyond strategic- it’s multi-dimensional. More than anything, voters can’t discriminate against his lack of Washington experience; his passion for change and dedication to the bettering of America drove him to seek candidacy in the first place. In essence, replace the lack of experience with a dedication to improve the collective state of the nation. That, to me, means much more than a bit of a blank on a resumé.  

Just last week, a University of New Hampshire/CNN poll showed that Buttigieg was in fourth place in New Hampshire, trailing the big three of Sanders, Warren and Biden. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released just yesterday (Wednesday, Nov. 6), he was in second place in the Iowa poll, landing only one percentage point behind Senator Warren. His meteoric rise to the top of the polls in the seven months since he declared candidacy is not just indicative of the American Dream — it’s telling of his dream for America.  

Americans need to focus less on the buzzwords when it comes to politics. In fame, Buttigieg doesn’t compare to Warren, Biden and Sanders. However, in practicality, message and execution, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the answer that America is searching for. His rise to the top looks similar to former President Barack Obama’s in the 2008 election cycle, yet his situation presents a steeper challenge with such well-known and serviceable opponents in his Democratic arena. It will be a long and twisting road for him to get the Democratic nominee in 2020, but the passion and the plan is there. 

In this election, who has the edge? Simply put, it’s Buttigieg.