While Buttigieg says he doesn’t envision the race to be Biden’s successor, inside the West Wing others are imagining it for him. His name is sometimes discussed by aides as the natural Democratic presidential candidate in 2028 – or 2024 if the president chooses not to run.
“No one in the West Wing is shutting it down,” said one person with direct knowledge of the conversations. “It’s very open.
The gossip has frustrated some staff of color who see it as disrespectful to Kamala Harris – the first black female vice president – and think senior officials should tamp it down. Some of Buttigieg’s former campaign staff also question whether it is possible to challenge Harris given how critical the black vote is in any Democratic primary and how Buttigieg struggled to attract those voters the last time around. But there is existing infrastructure waiting behind the scenes.
The political action committee he formed in the aftermath of the presidential race, Win the Era, remains mostly silent, but the website remains in place and has been organization of one-off events including one on November 15. Former campaign assistants Maxwell Nunes and Michael Halle helped keep him afloat, according to filed documents and disbursement reports. None of them responded to the messages.
As for reports of an emerging rivalry with the Vice President, Buttigieg said: “We are working extremely well with the Vice President’s team, and I am proud to be a part of the Biden-Harris team and to be part of the team. this administration. “
The White House declined to comment.
Buttigieg gets a taste of what life would be like selling a presidential program.
He was in Phoenix on Friday for a trio of events touting construction projects, including places that could benefit from the administration’s new infrastructure finance law, and address concerns about the supply chain. Arizona Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego all joined him for at least two of the meetings, and there was a lot of mutual praise.
Sinema, who has occasionally given crises in the White House and progressives, seemed delighted to appear with Buttigieg at a roundtable at Mesa Community College where he was seated between the two senators. “Thank you for your leadership,” for signing the infrastructure bill, said Buttigieg.
It was his first day on the road as an important face of the President’s Infrastructure Package, a $ 550 billion legislative initiative that he will help implement and sell to the public, with all the political implications that this has for the president.
“What excites me the most is that we’re going to have a lot of openings and possibly a lot of ribbon cuts,” he said of the year ahead.
While no election is directly in sight, Buttigieg’s initial efforts on the ground to promote the infrastructure deal had familiar elements from his past campaigns. There were many interviews, meetings with local elected officials, die-hard fans in “Pete” shirts carrying copies of his book, a protester with a homophobic sign (“Booty Gay Go Away”) and people in trouble. pronouncing his name (“Butt-Edge-Edge” instead of “Boot-Edge-Edge”, as the host of an event kept saying).
There were also attempts at this Midwestern folk humor that was part of his candidacy about two years ago. Regarding the benefits of the infrastructure package, he told POLITICO “it is literally as concrete as it gets”. He noted how cold it was when the bill was signed, but said the bipartisan package “warmed my heart.”
But, at least atmospheric, there are also differences from the 2020 primary. People now called him “Secretary-Mayor Pete,” “Mayor-Secretary Pete,” “Secretary Pete,” “Mayor Pete” or the familiar “Pete”. For the uninitiated, there was also a new documentary about Buttigieg’s campaign which premiered on Amazon this month.
“I’m the second most famous mayor in my class, and he’s not even mayor” plus, laughed Gallego, who attended Harvard University as an undergraduate student with Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, who saw the documentary on his run in 2020, said it brought back many memories, but objected when asked if he thought the film captured who he was. “I don’t even know how to rate a question like this, do I?” Because I’m just too close to all of these experiences, ”he said.
It was an unusual scene for the usually mundane life of a secretary of transportation. But Buttigieg is not your typical transport secretary. He is the first openly gay cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the Senate and the new parent of two adopted children who have become social media sensations, sometimes exceeding the president’s posts in terms of engagement.
He has apparently been at the center of the political buzz since former President Barack Obama dubbed him one of the future stars of the Democratic Party in November 2016, which has also drawn the contempt of older and more seasoned politicians who believe that his ascent would be impossible if he weren’t a white man with a Harvard degree.
The current round of presidential speculation comes at a particularly important time for Buttigieg. The Democratic Party is looking for the next generation of leaders, especially amid lingering questions about whether Biden will decide to run for office. His aides insist that running again is his “intention,” as White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday. But some Democrats see this language as equivocal.
At the same time, Buttigieg finds himself at the heart of the Biden administration’s priorities and main liabilities, which will likely have significant effects on his political future. He oversees parts of the supply chain that have been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic, contributing to inflation and threatening many sectors of the economy.
Or as Senator Kelly, who is running for re-election in 2022, said on Friday during a federal grant signing for a light rail transit project: “With all the work we’ve put on your desk here , you are going to have the biggest job of any secretary. transport, I think, decades, if ever.