Everyone has days when it seems that nothing you say is really making sense or connecting with anyone. You know, the kind of day when what sounded good in your head made a horrible appearance that teetered on awkward or just downright weird.
Well for, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, that day happened last week in front of quite a few people on his presidential campaign trail in Iowa. And because of his surroundings, it turned into a “please clap” moment.
Like former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete is trying to take full advantage of the ongoing impeachment trials that keep most of his opponents stuck in Washington. So he is making the rounds, traveling to town after town in early voting states such as Iowa in search of more votes. And while he is doing an excellent job of making himself known, it would seem that his messages aren’t really being absorbed, or at least not all of them.
While speaking at a town hall event this last week, he talked to the audience of many things, the need for “better values” in government, being one of them. And as all speakers do, they get to a break in the conversation, right after a good point has been made, where applause or some reaction from the crowd is expected. And yet, the audience gave Mayor Pete nothing.
Ear shattering silence filled the large room instead.
According to the New York Post, Buttigieg said, “By having better hands guided by better values on those pulleys and levers of American government. So I’m going to look to you to spread that sense of hope to those you know.”
Now, I understand that what you just read probably makes about as much sense as sandals in the snow. So it’s understandable that things didn’t exactly go over all that well with the audience.
But rather than quickly going on, letting his listeners promptly forget about his blunder or whatever he wants to call it, he drew even more attention to it. And finally, after a few awkward silent moments, he actually said to the crowd, “Come on!”
You likely remember one other presidential candidate utter a similar phrase back in 2016. Jeb Bush was campaigning in New Hampshire with his elderly mother, Barbara Bush, but even her presence didn’t win him over with the crowds much. Jeb actually asked his group to “please clap” after being given an icy reception.
And while the crowds just about anywhere never really got into Jeb, the same cannot be said of Buttigieg. As the first openly gay candidate and the youngest to possibly be sworn into office, he held considerable sway for Democrats right off the bat. Suddenly progressives nationwide had the hope of a brighter and more youthful future than the 70-something-year-olds promised.
Numerous polls and pundits boasted of his ability to draw in huge crowds, with his events in Iowa having some of the largest turnouts for any candidate so far. In some polls, he was even named number one or two in the state.
But after seeing more recent polls, it seemed just to be a rather good phase, not meant to last. So what happened?
Some would say that his awkward moment and his recent dip in the polls indicate audiences tired of being dragged into hear about just another candidate and what he or she might have to offer. After all, states like Iowa have been bombarded with candidate after candidate for months now, all boasting about what they can bring to the table. So it just could be “voter fatigue.”
Then again, it could be what he is or isn’t saying.
As we mentioned before, he started off with great potential. And as a centrist, he made a viable alternative to those who liked what Biden was saying but were looking for a little fresher face. And at first glance, he was the perfect candidate to reel in the younger generations.
Be he hasn’t. Instead, most young voters have latched onto Sanders, according to a Zogby poll.
“Sanders seems to have captivated these cohorts,” says John Zogby, founder, and senior partner of John Zogby Strategies. “He has the name recognition from 2016 and his message is direct on college tuition, minimum wage, the environment, and health care. Pete is not as well-known nor has he defined his candidacy in generational terms.”
And his “please clap” moment sure isn’t helping.