Why Elizabeth Warren and Amy Kobuchar went after Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg has recently enjoyed a surge in swing state polls. That’s one reason that he was the subject of some debate night swipes from his rivals. For candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders, they have an advantage over Buttigieg because while his supporters like them, their supporters don’t reciprocate.For Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Mayor’s success presents a problem.About three quarters of people happy with Klobuchar as nominee are also satisfied with Buttigieg as nominee. That’s a recipe for a rough night for the South Bend Mayor. Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.Thursday night’s Democratic debate contained some of the most compelling fireworks of the campaign so far, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg being the target of swipes by rivals, particularly Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The reason for this is simple: He’s up in the polls, but really quite vulnerable. His supporters tend to really like the frontrunners, and he hasn’t been able to nail down support to his campaign quite as well as some of his rivals have. Insider has been conducting a recurring SurveyMonkey Audience national poll for almost a year, specifically asking those who say they’re registered to vote and will probably participate in the Democratic primary who they’d be satisfied with as nominee.You can download every poll here, down to the individual respondent data, and see the sample size and margin of error for all four of the polls we cite here. (Read more about how the Insider 2020 Democratic primary tracker works.)This lets us supplement topline data with information about whose constituencies overlap, and if a given candidate’s supporters tend to favor a rival. Given that we’re still in the period where candidates are trying to command a lane, that’s important. 

Democratic presidential candidates from left, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer stand on stage before a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Why Pete’s got a target on his backThe thing Pete Buttigieg has going for him is lots of people like him.The thing Pete Buttigieg has working against him is the people who like him also like a lot of other candidates, too. Looking at the seven polls Insider conducted since mid-October, 816 respondents out of 1,625 possible Democratic primary voters said they’d be satisfied if Pete were the nominee. That’s the fourth-best in the set. But here’s the catch:76% of those people are also satisfied with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which is 13.3 percentage points higher than she even does among Democrats as a whole. 63% are also satisfied with former Vice President Joe Biden, 9.1 percentage points better than his overall performance. Even 53% are satisfied with Sanders as nominee, roughly even with his overall performance. Keep in mind, Sanders and Buttigieg have significant policy differences, and still Sanders is holding his own among Buttigieg fans. It doesn’t stop there. Compared to the typical Democratic primary voter, those satisfied with Buttigieg are even more likely to be happy with Sen. Cory Booker (13 percentage points higher than normal), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (6 percentage points higher than normal) and former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julian Castro (3 percentage points higher). 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., right, speaks beside South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg during a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.
Chris Carlson/AP Images

The issue for Pete is that that affection isn’t mutual It would be one thing if Pete was also doing exceptionally well among those rivals’ supporters. It is not, it turns out, that one thing. Quite the contrary:Just 42% of those satisfied with Warren would be content with Buttigieg as nominee, 8 percentage points lower than his overall performance.38% of those satisfied with Biden are alright with Pete, 12 percentage points less than normalA paltry 32% of Sanders fans would also be happy with Pete, fully 19 percentage points lower than his typical performance. Meanwhile, a candidate like Klobuchar can’t be blamed for looking at her own numbers — 74% of her supporters are also satisfied with Buttigieg as nominee, 24 percentage points higher than typical — and seeing that jumping in on this particular dog pile (and emphasizing her own considerable political and legislative experience in the process) is just plain good politics, drawing a distinct contrast for supporters whos eyes may be straying toward South Bend. This puts Buttigieg in an unenviable position during debates like these. His approval numbers are comparatively strong, but his supporters are more than fine with any of the other frontrunners. Those frontrunners have little to lose getting in the mix with Pete, given that their own base doesn’t particularly care for Buttigieg to begin with.And for a candidate like Klobuchar — someone who is stuck sharing a lane with Buttigieg — this will be one of the final times to really make a play for those waffling between Minneapolis and South Bend.It was only a matter of time before someone mentioned the wine cave.Read more:Biden saying he’d only serve one term would be an Election Day risk with little reward, new Insider poll showsThe Bernie Bro is over. Introducing the Yang Bro, the Bloomberg Bro, and the Gabbard Bro.Elizabeth Warren demands billionaire Michael Bloomberg release accusers from NDAsThe Michael Bloomberg campaign dance video mocking Pete Buttigieg was created by a comedy sketch group


Pete Buttigieg
Elizabeth Warren

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