At 9:34 PM on Sunday, March 1, 2020, former mayor Pete Buttigieg officially suspended his campaign for President.
Technically, Pete was in the race for 322 days, though he also had an 81-day exploratory committee on top of that. I tracked his emails since May 21, 2019, or 285 days. During that time, he sent 786 emails to my non-donor account and 742 to my donor account, for an average of 2.75 emails every day.
Pete preferred sending emails on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, with a noticeable rest on Sunday.
Though he seemed a morning person in real life, Pete’s emails tended to come in the middle of the day, between 11 AM and 4:59 PM, or between 5 PM and 8:59 PM. He did send a fair number of late night and early morning emails, though most of those circled around the debates or first day after FEC deadline fundraising releases.
Though others have told me he has added welcome emails, when I signed up for Pete’s emails and donated to him, he did not send automated “Welcome to the campaign” emails. This actually had me a bit concerned when I first started, as Pete was one of the last candidates to send me a first email: I didn’t hear from him until May 30, 2019.
For all of his late-game focus on fundraising, Pete’s emails were remarkably well-written. He tried to focus on things that the campaign was doing and things I could help the campaign do rather than raising money for the sake of having money. His focus on his campaign and not his opponents’ campaigns really stood out to me.
Pete also frequently held contests, mostly revolving around food. His “Pizza with Pete” contest was so successful, it came back for a round two and inspired some BTE merch.
Pete also held “Burgers with Buttigieg” and various chances to meet him for the debates, the Iowa caucus, meeting with him in New York City, and writing an email for him (I tried). His campaign advertised the most contests out of all of the campaigns, including those that dropped out. Despite other candidates’ attempts to claim that Pete was the candidate of closed-door elitism, he made himself the most accessible to all of his supporters. No one else offered to fly supporters out to meet them regardless of if they were campaigning nearby nearly as often as Pete did (and some candidates never even offered this opportunity at all).
Pete also advertised the most virtual town halls and rallies to me. I’m sure other candidates had conference calls and digital events for higher levels of supporters and volunteers than what I did as part of this blog, but only Pete was noticeably making a point to have his campaign come into my house, again, regardless of where I lived. Regardless of what I could afford. Yes, many of his digital events had ticket prices (usually $20.20 was the lowest “general” price, with discounts for students or veterans), but he also had many calls that had no donation requirement, it was just a call for an update on how he saw the campaign going. These calls were not always marketed at volunteers either: if you were curious, you could call in and hear Pete (or sometimes see him) directly.
I heard of one supporter in Vietnam who was following the election because Pete gave her hope for her own country. She was able to be on a call with him, and she described it like being in the presence of a rock star.
This was a young woman from Vietnam who could not donate, could not afford to visit America, and likely wouldn’t ever have been within fifty yards of Pete if he came to visit her country. But Pete still offered her a way to feel involved and connected with his campaign in a way that was more personal than watching a live stream of a rally of thousands.
Other candidates have offered calls, yes, some group calls “for volunteers,” some personal calls for donors, but no other candidate has offered an event that an international supporter could participate in. No one else has offered an event that an American supporter could participate in without being close by, paying money, or at least claiming to volunteer for the campaign.
Pete was very good about sending emails that didn’t ask for anything, just provided information. He was also very good at non-traditional asks, such as telling my story or calling my senators to demand gun reform. Whenever he emailed about his policies, he didn’t ask for a donation or petition to be signed, he just told me where I could read more details about it.
Pete frequently offered up stickers in exchange for donations, usually around debates, and he’d sometimes let me know when he had new merch available in his store (but not very often). He occasionally asked me to donate to outside groups, such as Disabled American Veterans or Moms Demand Action. In fact, most of his outside asks were for gun violence awareness, even before the El Paso and Dayton shootings in August.
Most campaign emails are not actually written by the candidate. Even emails signed by the candidate aren’t usually written by the candidate. Pete’s email team was the only one whose names I knew: Lisa, Medha, Cecilia, Zahwa, and Bridget.
They emailed to introduce themselves.
They are also, notably, all feminine names.
The women crafting Pete’s message had their hands visible in everything he did, from the makeup of his staff to the focus of his policies. His message of inclusion and belonging, of calming down, taking deep breaths, and coming together as a society are often seen as very feminine values. Even delivering this message through the mouth of a stoic war veteran whose daily wear would be the post-navy uniform of ill-fitting khakis and a polo shirt that so many people with Navy dads know all too well wasn’t enough to get it fully taken seriously. When his campaign was talked about, he was told to wait his turn, be more emotional (but don’t be mean, or angry, or cry), be less perfect… any woman in the public eye could empathize with many of his criticisms.
Many didn’t notice. Pete was a man. He couldn’t possibly be falling victim to gendered stereotypes.
Except Pete was a gay man, and nobody knew how to handle a gay candidate. He wasn’t gay enough, but he wasn’t masculine enough. Because he didn’t engage in the chest-thumping, raised voice, physical bravado that so many male candidates relish in, he was largely ignored. His message of unity, belonging, and love, despite being one that so many women (and yes, many men, such as President Obama) have craved, was overlooked because it was a man speaking about it, and everyone expected such a nurturing outlook to come from a woman.
Pete’s unity message was unique because it truly was a unified message, crafted by people of all races, ages, genders, sexualities, and abilities. Pete delivered the message, but he wasn’t the only one crafting it, and he made sure we knew it. When he talked about the Dreamer fearing she’d be kicked out of the only country she’s ever known, or the child making a will for fear of being killed at school, the message was never about him.
It was about us.
Pete was almost never negative about his campaign or the future. Those tiny slivers equate to just 29 out of 1,528 emails in which his message was down on himself, and they were almost entirely about fundraising goals.
In over 41% of his emails, Pete was unapologetically hopeful. He saw a future that was better than the present and better than the past, a future that we could all succeed in if we all worked together. He saw the good in everyone he talked to, and excitedly looked toward tomorrow when the real work could begin.
Even when he wasn’t being overly optimistic, Pete maintained a level neutrality. He never attempted to stoke fear or hatred.
100 Democratic-negative emails looks alarming, but I’d like to show you another version of this chart.
In all of 2019, Pete refused to attack his competitors. He practically refused to mention them at all. 2019 was all about introducing himself, his values, and his plans. His first swipe at a fellow Democrat via email was not until December 30, 2019.
Some Democrats have argued that we have to reject support from Americans based on who they voted for in the last election or their income.
But the way we see it is if you want to beat Donald Trump, you’re with us. Some dug deep and gave $5, and those who could afford to give more, gave $2800 — the maximum allowed by law. We’re not going to agree on everything, but what we all agree on is the stakes are too high for purity tests that polarize Americans. To win this election, we need to galvanize Americans.
We won’t accept contributions from federal lobbyists, executives of the fossil fuel industry, or corporate PACs, and as president, Pete will enact meaningful campaign finance reform.
So with less than 48 hours left until the end of the year, we need your help right now to sustain our momentum and prove that Pete has the grassroots support to win. If you can, please make another donation before the year is over.Hari Sevugan, Deputy Campaign Manager, Pete for America
Even there, his attack was barely a tap, feeling out the results before going harder.
In 2020, however, Pete changed gears. He switched from defensive to offensive, hitting Bernie Sanders over and over again for his 9 dark money groups supporting him, scolding divisive politics driving people to the edges with a “burn it down” approach. He also scolded Mike Bloomberg for attempting to buy the party out. Neither way, Pete argued, left much room for most Americans, and neither would be good for the Democratic party.
At no point, however, did Pete throw shade at the party itself. At no point did he say they were corrupt or twisting the election to suit their own choices. He didn’t scold the rules they set up, even when he didn’t like them, and he played the game as it was laid out in front of him. He refused to make up his own rules just because he didn’t like the way the game was played, though he did warn that Bernie Sanders was going to claim the popular vote victory in Iowa even before the Iowa caucus happened.
As you know, the outcome of the Iowa Caucuses is critical. (If you can, please chip in right now to help us make sure we can sprint through the finish line.) What you might not know, though, is how the winner will be determined, or what to make of all the numbers.
There will be three numbers coming out of the Caucuses: the raw numbers of the first alignment (“alignment” is a caucus term for the different rounds of voting); the raw numbers of the second alignment; and “State Delegate Equivalents,” or “SDEs.” The winner of the Iowa Caucuses will be determined by this third number — the number of delegates awarded.
Here’s an important note: Delegates are only awarded at the end of the night after a full Caucus. A lot will happen between that first alignment and final delegate allocation.
But we heard today that the Bernie campaign is planning on releasing numbers after that first alignment — which means that they’re choosing to ignore the results that come after.
But just like the winner of the Super Bowl will be determined by total points scored, not yards gained before halftime, the results of the Caucuses will be determined by delegates earned at the end of the night, not the first or second alignment numbers.
Here’s why understanding how this works and adhering to these rules is important: The Democratic nominee has to play to win.
Listen, as much as we’d like to count up the votes in the general election and determine the winner that way, instead of working within the electoral college, we have to be ready to win under the rules we have. Democratic candidates need to demonstrate that ability right now.
The measure of how someone wins the nomination will be delegates. So that’s how Pete for America is measuring success — because that’s how we win.
Pete is the leader we need, and this is the campaign that can win. If you believe that, chip in right now to make sure we can win in Iowa tomorrow, and be ready to win in New Hampshire just eight days later.
We expect our team — that’s you — to lead when it comes to caucus night analysis and behavior online. Sit tight and wait until the end of the night. Follow the Rules of the Road tomorrow, just as you have this entire year.
Even if other campaigns go there and try to spin the results, we won’t.
Look, we’re playing to win. This year more than ever, Democrats need to be ready to win in November. And we are. We can win. And we’ll always be transparent with you about how we do that.
If you’re proud to be on a team that’s working for a new type of politics based on honesty and integrity, please chip in right now to make sure we have the resources to sprint through Iowa and win tomorrow night — fairly and respectfully.Pete for America, South Bend HQ
To this day, Bernie Sanders is insisting that the first number is the one that matters, and Pete did not have a historic win for both himself and the LGBTQ+ community in Iowa. Thanks to Sanders’ constant demands for recounts, Pete has won Iowa more times than any other person in the entire history of the country.
One of the biggest forces of positivity in Pete’s campaign was that of his husband, Chasten Buttigieg. In a very early email, Chasten said that emails signed by him were actually written by him. Though I had my doubts on some of the Pete emails, I never really wondered about Chasten’s. They were few enough that it was reasonable he took a minute to write something, and they were always a wonderful break in my inbox of PLEASE GIVE MONEY.
Chasten loved to crack some jokes, show off his dogs, and support his husband in every way possible, but he also made sure to support us in every way possible. He was very aware of what it meant to be such a public figure, and the teacher in him craved to be the role model and support system that so many kids needed to see. More than any other candidate’s spouse, Chasten put himself in front of the public eye, lifting up and supporting the campaign and its supporters in every way he possibly could.
But the most important ingredient in Pete’s campaign was Pete himself.
I made my first donation to Pete in March of 2019, and the first few emails I received from his campaign were in a league all their own. Take a look:
When Pete sent the email announcing that we had surpassed our 65,000 donor goal (below), he also said that we would be honest and transparent about deadlines, and our strategies for meeting goals.
As you know, we have been laser focused on the donor goal — you have been, too. Our success metrics in every department have revolved around the number of donors we could bring in as investors in this vision for our future.
When it became clear we would hit this goal, we started to solidify our next set of financial goals, and that’s what we are here to present today.
Our goals are directly tied to the programs we want to run, and the staff, software, tools, and paid media required to do so. We finalized an operational plan for the next several months, and we need to raise $500,000 before the end of the quarter on March 31st in order to operate at the basic version of our plan.
Here’s what will happen when we hit this goal:
We will be able to execute on the most basic level of our operational plan. Specifically, and most importantly, we’ll be able to hire more staff to run bigger outreach programs and coordinate more closely with supporters and volunteers.
We will still be an underdog, but we will be one that cannot be written off. We’ll gain even more momentum and enter into the second quarter of this year in a solid spot, staffed and resourced to break through even bigger goals.
So can you please contribute today and help us reach our EOQ goal?
We will keep you updated on progress to goal.
Thanks for your continued support,Pete for America
We promised we’d be transparent about our fundraising goals and progress, so we are here to report on the first fundraising goal we set.
On Tuesday, we set a goal to raise an additional $500,000 before March 31st.
We met that goal on Wednesday.
That wasn’t a gimmick. We didn’t think we’d hit it that quickly. We set the goal because it was what we needed to raise, and we thought it was doable based on some projections we made.
There are a lot of new supporters here in our Pete for America community, so we are doubling our goal and inviting you to help us meet it.
Here are specifics about what this additional money will allow us to do:
Hire more staff: Yesterday, we sent around an updated job board. We’re bringing on talented staff, and we need to pay them. We also provide wellness benefits so that they don’t ignore their health; we need everyone operating at peak performance.
Travel more: We want to come see you and learn about what is important to you and your community. We need to get to national media outlets in New York and DC, too. Unfortunately, as you know, traveling is expensive.
Move into a bigger office in South Bend: Our team is small and travels a lot so we have not needed a huge space so far. We share desks and offices, and that’s been working just fine. But we’re moving into a larger space — one that can accommodate new team members, offers collaborative spaces like conference rooms, has hi-speed WiFi, and is wired for video conferencing to better connect staff with volunteers around the country.
Open offices in New Hampshire and Iowa: We have staff on the ground in both states, and as we grow, we’ll want them to have a home-base. Setting up shop so that volunteers can work together and with our staff is a priority for us.
Run more paid media: “Paid media” can mean a lot of things. Really specifically, we mean paying to have our Facebook posts and Google Search reach more people who might join us if they knew about us. With your help, we can get our message in front of even more people.
Please consider helping us reach our (second) $500,000 goal by March 31st:
Pete for America
P.S: We launched some new shirts over at http://store.peteforamerica.com. Check them out!Pete for America
Last week we said we’d be transparent about our fundraising goals and progress. We set a goal to raise an additional $500,000 before the end of the quarter on March 31st. We (you) hit that goal within 24 hours.
Then we set a second goal and discussed the things your investment would help pay for (offices in South Bend, New Hampshire, and Iowa; staff; paid media, etc). We (you) hit that goal in about 24 hours, too.
So while the initial data is confirming what we already know (Deadlines work! Urgency works!), we’re not going to set a third goal. We refuse to use the tired end-of-quarter messaging that is overplayed across all industries. It’s not honest.
Instead, we made this video that shows a few of the highlights from this weekend’s trip to South Carolina. Please watch:
It’s clear: When voters hear directly from Pete, they appreciate his bold vision for our future and want him in the race.
It’s our job, as the Pete for America community, to make sure we’re getting him in front of as many voters as we can.
So even though we’re not setting a third goal here, we are going to ask you to do two things: 1.) Please consider making a contribution and 2.) Please share this with your friends and family and ask them to make a contribution.
How can you help?
Pete Buttigieg is the only politician I have ever met who actually came out and said “You’ve given me enough.” That email right there solidified a lot of good will for the local mayor.
Pete started the race not as a billionaire, or even a millionaire. He was not an elite member of the Democratic Party, despite being a lifetime member of it. He did not have eligible funds to transfer in or a contact list of even 25,000 people.
I can’t think of a good farewell, so I’ll close this post with the words of Mike Schmuhl, campaign manager to Pete Buttigieg.
We often think back to those cold, snowy days in January when we were setting up our first office in South Bend. It was a small space with donated furniture and spotty WiFi. There were five of us then. All volunteers. We didn’t have much, but we had ideas.
And we had Pete.