I wrote in November that the race for the Democratic nomination would come down to Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. I suppose that’s still possible, though I don’t know how Biden’s fourth place finish in Iowa bolsters his argument that he’s the best candidate to go up against Trump, when it seems the only people who agree with him are the people already on his payroll.
Joe is not expected to do much better in New Hampshire either, and I don’t recall of a candidate in the past managing to “fourth-place” themselves to victory, do you?
South Carolina seems to be where Joe is now pinning his hopes. But I don’t see the population of the Palmetto State placing all their chips on a candidate who has been claiming for the last nine months to have “massive support” but needs you to ignore the results of the first two voting states. You know, the states which historically establish whether or not you have momentum, a viable infrastructure, a resounding message, and any sort of enthusiasm from the general electorate whatsoever.
Even more telling of the dire state of the Biden campaign is the undeniably – “Rules of the Road” fans, cover your ears – desperate ad Biden and his people have just released targeting Mayor Pete and trivializing his success as Mayor of South Bend, claiming it amounts to nothing more than some “colored lights” on the river and a few decorative bricks laid into the street.
Some of you may have seen the Biden ad. I’m not linking to it here, not because I’m worried it will bite into Buttigieg support, but because it is so egregiously misleading, so achingly superior, so poorly produced and so all-around pathetic, that out of respect for Joe Biden, the fewer people who see it the better.
If this ad is the best he can do, Joe Biden might want to re-direct his future political ambitions to head of a local Elks Lodge instead of leader of the free world.
I’d like to run down several of the actual meaningful achievements Pete Buttigieg is responsible for during his time as Mayor of South Bend that Biden’s people either left out or misrepresented. And yes, the South Bend River Lights can be included in that list. They actually look to be quite pretty. I would imagine the population of South Bend might openly admit they don’t live in the most glamorous city in the country and appreciate the aesthetic upgrade as something they can all enjoy in their own home town, and point to with pride. Based on the new Biden ad in question, I don’t imagine pride is something Joe’s camp is placing too much emphasis on at the moment.
But Pete Buttigieg was responsible for more than the South Bend River Lights. Consider…
When Pete took office in January 2012, the unemployment rate in South Bend was 9.6 percent. As of December 2019, it was 3.4 percent. That’s a drop of more than half.
Mayor Pete’s “Smart Streets” initiative – the one Joe Biden’s ad claims amounted to adding bricks to the pavement – was in fact, a lot more. One-way streets were converted to two-way, speed limits were reduced, driving lanes were narrowed, new landscaping was installed. These alterations may not be sexy, but they have attracted over 500 new housing units to the downtown area of South Bend. The assessed value of downtown property rose from about $132.8 million in 2013 to roughly $160.9 million last year in 2018. Bricks didn’t make all that happen; Buttigieg did.
15,000 new jobs have been added to the metro area, and thanks to city investment deals, 4000 additional jobs have also been created.
And after more than a decade in decline, South Bend has increased its population every year since 2013.
A few more things to note:
- Streets were redesigned to accommodate foot and bike traffic.
- 365,812 potholes have been filled.
- 141.46 lane miles have been paved.
- 442,648 feet of curbs and sidewalks have been replaced.
- Smart Sewers have saved taxpayers $100M.
- A Gateway Intake Center for the homeless has been funded ($1.5 M).
- The number of homeless veterans is at functional zero city-wide.
- South Bend received a $1M grant from Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge to expand its employer-sponsored rideshare program for employees with transportation needs.
- The minimum wage for city employees was raised from $7.25/hr. to $10.10/hr.
- The city now offers up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave at full salary.
- 95% of the city trash trucks are running on compressed natural gas (CNG), which comes mostly from human waste biogas. The city bus fleet is also transitioning to CNG.
But let’s put all of these accomplishments aside for a moment and consider this: In less than a year, an Indiana mayor with no nationwide recognition has managed to put together a team that has propelled him to a win in the Iowa caucuses (Buttigieg: 26.2%, Biden: 15.8%), and strong polling ahead of the New Hampshire primary (Pete is 10 points ahead of Biden). Pete also raised 76 million dollars in 2019, from over 2 million donations from more than 733,000 people. Biden, by contrast, raised 59 million for 2019.
Pete Buttigieg is in a far steadier position in this race that many who have had national name recognition for years. If that isn’t an indication of strength, judgment and an understanding of how to win, perhaps Joe Biden, now making his third run at The Oval Office, could shed some light on it for us.
I guess we will know next Tuesday night how well this new Biden ad works for Joe in New Hampshire. I personally don’t imagine it moving the needle much. And while Biden feels the need to take accomplishments away from Pete Buttigieg in order to make himself look more appealing, one need only watch Mayor Pete speak for himself on the debate stage, without robbing anyone else of their achievements, to see what a winning politician is really made of.