What’s Pete Buttigieg going to do next?
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten address supporters in South Bend, Indiana, formally announcing that he is suspending his 2020 presidential campaign.
As Pete Buttigieg took the stage in South Bend, Indiana, to announce his decision to end his 2020 presidential campaign, chants of “2024!” broke out in the crowd.
While that is slightly premature — Buttigieg literally just dropped out of the 2020 race — there’s no doubt that lots and lots of people are wondering: What’s next for the former South Bend mayor?
The shortest answer is we don’t know. But there’s no question that the 38-year-old Democrat has a whole lot of options going forward. Let’s run through them:
1) Veep: Buttigieg conducted himself very well in his run for president, particularly on the debate stage. Given that, his youth and what would be the historic nature (the first gay vice presidential nominee for either party) of picking him, Buttigieg would likely be in the mix for second-in-command. His flirtation with a rapid endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden would seem to ramp up the VP talk — if and when it happens.
2) US Senate: Indiana has two Republican freshman senators — Todd Young, who is up in 2022, and Mike Braun, who is up in 2024. (Though I don’t think people at the Buttigieg event Sunday night were chanting “2024!” to encourage Mayor Pete to run for Senate …) Both Young and Braun won with under 52% of the vote, which could make them targets in their first reelection races — particularly if someone like Buttigieg, with his demonstrated candidate skills and fundraising ability, decided to run. But Indiana has moved strongly to Republicans at the federal level in recent years — President Donald Trump won it by 19 points in 2016 — so Buttigieg would likely not start either of those races as a favorite.
3) DNC Chair: While the recent history of running the Democratic National Committee is a lot like being the drummer for “Spinal Tap,” it’s still, in theory, a very high-profile job within the party. And it’s hard to imagine that the next Democratic nominee won’t want to install his or her own person — or at least a new person — in that job, especially after the debacle of the Iowa caucuses this year. Who better than a young, fresh face with a demonstrated record of raising money? And someone who has run to be the DNC chair already? (Buttigieg dropped out before any votes were cast in the 2017 DNC chair race that current chair Tom Perez won.)
4) 2024 presidential candidate: Yes, Buttigieg will almost certainly run for president again. The funny thing about the crowd chanting “2024!” at Buttigieg on Sunday night is that it presumes Trump gets reelected this fall. Otherwise, there will be a sitting Democratic president running for a second term in 2024. If Trump does win again, there’s no question that Buttigieg is a top-tier candidate in 2024. If a Democrat wins this November and serves two terms, then his or her VP will likely be at the front of the line. Buttigieg, who would only be 46(!) in 2028, would of course also be on the list. And, per No. 1 above, Buttigieg could be the VP pick who is at the front of the line. It’s like “Inception!”
The point here is that Buttigieg, in getting out of this race so abruptly and so soon before Super Tuesday, absolutely has an eye to his political future. If I had to hazard a guess, I would think he might wind up as the DNC chair as his next move — assuming he isn’t the VP pick. That’s a job that will keep him on TV and in people’s minds while also allowing him to play a major role in shaping what the party will look like going forward.