In the waning minutes before the Pete Buttigieg team event at Wise Man Brewing on Monday, a young couple made their way to the door, one of them holding a baby and the other a leash attached to a mid-sized, furry dog.
Like most of the people in the cavernous space, they were here for the beer. But the Buttigieg campaign drew perhaps 50 people before it was all over, here to strategize before Super Tuesday and to welcome the national campaign staffer, Eric Tallman, fresh off the plane from New Hampshire, where Mayor Pete solidified his presence at the front of the pack of Democratic presidential candidates with a close second-place finish behind Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Tallman’s young, lean, with an earnest haircut and crew-neck Buttigieg sweatshirt. He wears sleek glasses with clear, oval frames and black arms, and when he stands on a chair to address the people, he knows what to say.
“It’s awesome to see the energy and excitement here,” he tells them before imploring them to “kick it into high gear,” with fundraising events, list-building and door-knocking, how important they all are to the cause.
“That field margin,” he says, referring to the efficacy of the Buttigieg ground game, “that’s how we win.”
What to say about the Buttigieg folks? They’re all white, predominantly Boomers with about a third Gen X and even a few Millennials scattered around. A lot of them have great haircuts and excellent glasses: square, wide wire-rims under a red brush cut; clear plastic cat’s eyes with a hint of grey tortoiseshell; oval half-frames with progressive lenses; round, aquamarine frames under a stark-white fauxhawk. They are, by a slim margin, men.
It makes one wonder about the demographics of Mayor Pete’s coalition. What are the threads that will ultimately bind them? He’s gay but there’s no visible LGBTQ+ presence at this event — no rainbows or “Gays for Pete” signs, anyway. He’s ex-military, but none of the attendees are of the conspicuous pro-military type — no Marine insignia or veteran ballcaps or anything like that. Midwesterners? Maybe. Beards? Not even tonight in the brewery.
Bearded Americans seem to be going for Bernie, in my informal calculus, which is also where the youth vote is swaying.
Not Drew Skilton. He’s a Wake Forest University freshman majoring in political science and communication, and he’s head of what an organizer told me was the largest campus Buttigieg group in North Carolina. No glasses, though.
Wake students, he says, are not all that political.
“I think a lot of people try to keep it on the down-low,” he says. “But as the election comes up people will start to get involved.
“Day to day, not so much,” he adds.
He knows that most of his Gen Z cohort backs Bernie, but he’s not on the train. Yet.
“I consider myself more of a moderate Democrat,” he says.
Like all Democrats right now, he’s concerned about the Bloomberg money machine, the dark horse of Elizabeth Warren and the fact that, should Mayor Pete get the nomination, he might not be able to count on Bernie’s voters coming aboard.
“Nothing against Bernie,” he says. “I’m blue no matter who. No matter who the Democrat is — I hope it will be Pete — the end game is to beat Donald Trump. That’s what I push. Vote Democrat no matter who. I think the kids on campus see the end game.”
He’d better hope so, because it’s going to take more than thoughtful white people with glasses to put Mayor Pete in the White House.