“Politico Playbook” author Tara Palmeri noted Friday the “amazing press” and “warm, fuzzy interviews” Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has enjoyed lately as Democratic insiders speculate whether he could be their White House nominee in 2024.
On “America’s Newsroom,” Palmeri discussed reporting that Democrats are increasingly skeptical that President Biden will seek a second term, and are wondering if Buttigieg rather than Vice President Kamala Harris could be his heir apparent. As he’s made the rounds as both a new father and the face of Biden’s victory on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, some White House aides have reportedly buzzed over him as the possible next standard-bearer.
“It just so happens that Pete Buttigieg aligned himself in a place where the policy that this administration is pushing, infrastructure, the heart of that, is in transportation,” Palmeri said. “Because of that he’s become the spokesperson for this infrastructure bill, this bipartisan infrastructure bill that’s overwhelmingly popular and he gets to go on the road and sell this bill, and he gets to be on late-night TV. He’s on ‘The Today Show,’ getting warm fuzzy interviews. He’s on ‘The View.’ He’s everywhere. He’s getting all this amazing press like nothing you’ve seen from a transportation secretary before.”
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, Nov. 10, 2021. (REUTERS/Yves Herman)
Palmeri noted the political buzz around a transportation secretary is atypical, but Buttigieg, 39, has been on the national political scene since 2017, making high-profile bids to be the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and then the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He started strong but quickly faded in the primaries, dropping out and endorsing Biden.
The Buttigieg talk has also annoyed people in Harris’ orbit, as she struggles with record-low approval ratings for a vice president.
“The chatter has frustrated some staffers of color who see it as disrespectful to Kamala Harris — the first Black woman vice president — and think senior officials should tamp it down,” Politico reported.
Vice President Kamala Harris boards Air Force Two after visiting Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189 union to promote the infrastructure plan, at John Glenn Columbus International Airport, in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 19, 2021. (REUTERS/Gaelen Morse)
The $1.2-trillion infrastructure law passed with Republican help in the House and Senate, with proponents calling it badly needed for the nation’s faltering roads and bridges while opponents called it more wasteful spending that doesn’t chiefly address those.
Biden, who turned 79 last week, is the oldest president ever and has faced repeated questions about whether he would seek a second term. The White House says that Biden intends to run for reelection.
Palmeri said, either way, Biden has to give the impression he’s running again to effectively freeze out any possible future opponents.
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden call Al Roker while watching NBC Today’s 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (White House)
“It is also important that as a president he doesn’t appear to be a lame duck,” she said. “Now some donors that I’ve spoken to, major Democratic donors, say they don’t feel the same sort of donor maintenance you would get from a sitting president who’s up for a second term. That means inviting them to the White House for meetings, checking up with them on calls, offering them political appointments. Usually if you are up for reelection you want to make sure your donors are happy. … His poll numbers are low right now and there’s a real question in the Democratic Party about who could run as the Democratic nominee.”