An obscure Midwestern mayor aiming to become America’s first openly gay president has surged in polls. Pete Buttigieg, 37, stunned fellow Democrat candidates, leapfrogging many who have vastly more experience on the national stage.
One poll in Iowa, the crucial first state to vote in the 2020 Democrat nomination process, put him in third place behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Another national poll had him tied fifth with Elizabeth Warren, the high-profile veteran Massachusetts senator.
What pollsters called the "Buttigieg bounce" was fuelled by a widely praised performance in a CNN town hall event, and the network declared him the "hottest candidate in the race".
A flood of media exposure also included a six-minute laudatory segment on America’s The Daily Show. The candidate’s book has shot on to the New York Times bestseller list.
Since 2011, Mr Buttigieg has been mayor of his home town of South Bend, Indiana, which has a population of 100,000, and he is widely known there as "Mayor Pete".
The town imploded economically in the 1960s when car manufacturers moved out and he has sought to fill the gaps with hi-tech jobs.
He announced he was gay during his 2015 re-election campaign and won 80 per cent of the vote.
Across the country voters have, in recent days, been learning how to correctly say the candidate’s name, which is pronounced "BOOT-edge-edge". It is Maltese in origin and translates as "Lord of the poultry".
Democrat voters have also been digesting the impressive CV of the only millennial in the race.
It includes having served as a counterintelligence officer in Afghanistan, been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and studied at Harvard.
He speaks seven languages, including Norwegian, Arabic, Farsi and Spanish. In his spare time the mayor has played piano with the South Bend symphony orchestra, and guitar in rock bands.
At a recent event in New Hampshire, Mr Buttigieg told The Daily Telegraph he supports health care expansion to all Americans, and strong labor unions, and opposes Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.
He wants to scrap the Electoral College system for presidential elections, and expand the US Supreme Court from nine to 15 justices.
Mr Buttigieg said he was "aware of the historic nature" of trying to become the first openly gay president but "hoped that we are moving towards a world where it would not be newsworthy".
He added: "I will have a personal stake in what the world will look like in 2054, when I hit the current age of the current president. I think that is something that is resonating with millennial voters.
"Also, I’ve found a lot of voters in the older generation who care about the condition they are going to leave the world in."
Mr Buttigieg said he recalled his two years at Oxford extremely fondly.
He said: "I loved it. I’m always looking for an excuse to go back. To be honest it took a little getting used to. I think a lot of Americans there are thrown off by the rigour of the tutorial system, which is not something even Harvard had prepared me for."
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