On a dark and damp stretch of Filbert Street next to the Reading Terminal Market on Sunday night, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg asked his audience to think about a morning in the future:
“If you really picture what this country will be like that first day the sun comes up and he’s not president anymore,” Buttigieg said, referring to President Donald Trump. “Think about what we’re going to need – a country that’s going to be even more divided even more torn up by politics than we are now.”
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is pitching himself as the right one for the job.
“Remember that every time my party has taken the presidency in the last half century, it’s been with a candidate who has come from a new generation, who is new to the national scene, who calls America to her highest values. And it’s usually somebody who is the opposite of whatever we just had,” Buttigieg said at the grassroots fundraising event on Filbert between 11th and 12th streets.
If elected, 37-year-old Buttigieg (known as “Mayor Pete”) would be the country’s youngest president. He would also be the first openly gay president.
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Hundreds stood in the rain Sunday waiting to get in to see him at the rally site.
“He’s a very welcome contrast to some of the old guard,” said Austin O’Neill, a 22-year old-voter from New Jersey.
Jennifer Laning, of Newark, Delaware, said Buttigieg had the same energy her mom used to talk about seeing in John Kennedy.
Dale Perkins, of Philadelphia, said he considers Buttigieg to be the most electable of the candidates and that he hits a sweet spot:
“I want a bold vision, but I still want pragmatism as well,” Perkins said.
On health care, one of the hot topics of the Democratic primary race, Buttigieg is proposing a plan of “Medicare for all who want it." His plan would still allow for private insurance plans while letting those who want it to buy into a government plan.
On his stop in Philadelphia, Buttigieg was visiting a city whose population is about 15 times the size of the Midwest city he runs as mayor. After speaking to the crowd, Buttigieg told reporters that when it comes to preparing for the presidency there’s “no job quite like being a mayor.”
“Compared to being let’s say a senator — with all due respect to the United States Congress and Senate — I think being a mayor of a city of any size gives you that on the ground experience as well as the accountability for executive leadership,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg is running against multiple U.S. senators in the primary race – including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar.
Asked about President Trump’s win in Pennsylvania after decades of Democratic victories, Buttigieg compared Pennsylvania voters to voters in his home state of Indiana.
“I think it’s similar to the dynamic in my part of Indiana where there are a lot of voters who were so frustrated that they were willing to vote for anything just to burn the house down,” he said. “They didn’t even like the guy, they just wanted total change. Now the house is on fire and you’ve got to do something different.”
A new USA Today/Suffolk poll released on Monday puts Buttigieg in third place in Iowa, the site of the first 2020 votes. Buttigieg comes in at 13 percent, behind Warren at 17 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden at 18 percent. Sanders came in at 9 percent.