If your 2020 primary bingo card includes a “Please clap” moment, you can fill that square. Pete Buttigieg just made that real.
Nearly alone on the campaign trail in Iowa, in front of a curious crowd, here Pete tried to instill some sizzle, inject some fire, and fizzled.
“By having better hands guided by better values on those pulleys and levers of American government,” Buttigieg told the crowd. “So I’m going to look to you to spread that sense of hope to those that you know.”
The candidate took a brief pause, which was met with complete silence by attendees.
“Come on!” Buttigieg exclaimed and awkwardly chuckled, to which the crowd applauded.Buttigieg urges Iowa audience to get excited after awkward silence, NY Post, January 21, 2020
“Come on!” translates very loosely to “Please clap!” which became the death knell for “low energy” Jeb! who was quickly sinking into obscurity in 2016.
I felt pretty bad for Jeb at the time, mostly because the cringe-y-ness of the whole thing is sort of overwhelming. But I can’t really muster any sentiment for Pete this time around.
The two men–Pete and Jeb–bear some comparisons in more ways than meme creation. In 2016, Bush was polling at 4.8% in a crowded Republican field led by Trump and Cruz. By the end of February, Jeb was done, barely outlasting Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie.
In a much more consolidated Democratic field, Buttigieg is doing much better. CNN has him at 11%, just behind Warren. Monmouth has him at 6% and Morning Consult at 8%. In New Hampshire, the RCP Average has Buttigieg at 14.3%, tied with Warren. This is way better than Bush ever did in 2016.
Add to that the benefit of nearly having the state to himself, with Senators Warren, Sanders, and Klobuchar confined to drinking water or milk for 12 hours a day in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. (Funny how the defendant is jetting off to Davos while the jury is impounded in a plush prison.)
In any case, this will remain a funny meme for a while, and probably an instructive moment for Pete on how to read a crowd. But being out of touch isn’t the only thing Pete and Jeb have in common. They both had fairly successful fathers who did well in their chosen fields. Joseph Buttigieg was a noted academic who obviously passed on his love of learning to his son.
While Jeb is old enough to be Pete’s dad (Buttigieg was born the year I graduated high school…sigh), both of their fathers passed away within two months of each other–George H.W. Bush in November, 2018, and Joseph Buttigieg in January, 2019. And, a stretch factoid: the elder Bush was a Navy Lieutenant (JG), and Pete Buttigieg was also a Navy Lieutenant.
So the Bushes and the Buttigiegs can now celebrate one more thing in common. They both, on the campaign trail, have committed meme-able acts of awkwardness.
That, and neither of them will, in all likelihood, become president.