Buttigieg Learns the Hazards of Campaigning for President as a Mayor

By Josh Lederman

As he soared from obscurity to top-tier presidential candidate this year, Mayor Pete Buttigieg rooted his unlikely campaign in an argument he hoped would fit both the moment and his relatively thin resume: that what a nation fed up with big government truly needs is to “get Washington to look more like our best-run cities and towns.”

Now that South Bend is in the throes of a crisis over race, policing and city leadership, that rationale is running headlong into the inconvenient reality that when things go sour, mayors can be held immediately and directly responsible in a way that senators and congressman are not.

The recent unrest in South Bend — triggered by the fatal shooting of Eric Logan, a black man, by a white police officer a week ago — has become the most profound hurdle for Buttigieg’s candidacy to date. It has also tested his readiness to confront an issue that seems to call for a visceral, emotional response, rather than the cerebral, levelheaded comportment that has made the 37-year-old mayor seem so unflappable on the campaign trail.

For the first time, cracks in Buttigieg’s composure have publicly emerged, as he’s struggled to find the right tone to respond to piercing questions from his own constituents about whether he’s a racist and what the life of a black person means to him.

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