Why So Many Pete Buttigieg Supporters Are Suddenly Turning To Bernie Sanders

PHoto: Matt Baron/Shutterstock.
After a historic outing as the first gay man to helm a mainstream presidential campaign — one which included an unexpected victory in the Iowa caucus — former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced on Sunday night that he had made the “difficult decision” to suspend his candidacy.
Despite the end of his own 2020 run, Buttigieg concluded his remarks with a vow to "do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January." And by Monday morning, it seemed possible that Buttigieg’s base had come up with a definitive, if surprising, answer to the question of who that nominee should be.
Just hours after Buttigieg had exited the race, the Twitter hashtag #PetetoBernie — a reference to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who currently leads the Democratic field — had racked up more than 21,000 tweets, compared to just 3,600 tweets under the hashtag counterpart for former Vice President Joe Biden, #PetetoBiden.
The differences between Sanders’ and Buttigieg’s political programs, it's worth noting, are striking: Sanders supports a single-payer, government subsidized health care program, while Buttigieg has said that the program is too radical and said that individuals who like their private insurance should be entitled to keep it. The candidates also clashed over campaign donations, with Sanders criticizing Buttigieg for his big-donor strategy and accusing the former McKinsey analyst of being too friendly to Wall Street.
But despite the wide gulf ideological between the two candidates, some on Twitter seemed to concede that Sanders appeared best prepared to beat the incumbent President Donald Trump in a general election in the fall. Others argued that without an openly gay candidate to support, the next best choice would be Sanders, a longtime champion of the LGBTQ community.
Although Twitter endorsements are more or less anecdotal evidence, poll data supports the idea that Buttigieg supporters might be flocking to the Sanders camp. According to a Morning Consult poll conducted from February 23 - 27, some 21 percent of Buttigieg supporters named Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as their second choice in the Democratic primary, narrowly beating out the 19 percent of supporters who said they would support former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, respectively, and the 17 percent who said they would back former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The spread would pretty neatly amount to a roughly two point bump for each candidate, meaning that his decision to exit the primary will do little to meaningfully change the landscape of the race.
With Super Tuesday poised to reshape the Democratic field once again on March 3, it remains to be seen whether would-be Buttigieg supporters will rally behind Sanders or pepper their support through the more centrist pack of candidates that still remain afield.
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