A group of five former ambassadors who served under former President Obama are lining up behind Pete Buttigieg
, giving the South Bend, Ind. mayor a jolt of institutional fundraising support amid his meteoric rise in the Democratic presidential primary.
The Obama diplomats – Timothy Broas (Netherlands), John Phillips (Italy), Tod Sedgwick (Slovakia), David Jacobson (Canada) and Bill Eacho (Austria) – raised millions of dollars for the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012.
The ambassadors are now planning a fundraiser for Buttigieg in Washington, D.C. in May.
Jacobson is also planning a Chicago fundraiser, putting Buttigieg’s fast-rising campaign in position to tap into Obama’s deep network of wealthy donors.
“I am all in with Mayor Pete. No one else. I don’t see anyone else who comes close,” said Eacho, the former U.S. Ambassador to Austria. “His ability to come across as authentic, honest, and trustworthy; his ability to connect emotionally with the American people, are qualities I have not seen in the other candidates. And of course I like the way he frames important issues. He is all about making progress without a flame-thrower approach.”
There is building buzz in Obama World around Buttigieg, a military veteran, Rhodes Scholar and gay millennial leader.
Many top former donors see parallels between Buttigieg and Obama, because of their fast rise, their political and rhetorical skills, and the potentially history-making nature of their campaigns.
“I see in Pete many of the same things I saw in Barack Obama
back in 2006 and 2007,” said Jacobson, the former U.S. Ambassador to Canada. “I see incredible intelligence, great common sense and a dignity that befits the office of the presidency. Those were qualities that all of us involved in the Obama campaign saw early on. With Pete, the more you see him, the more you like him. That was very much the case with Barack Obama.”
Jacobson told The Hill that he didn’t take Buttigieg’s campaign seriously when he first announced his exploratory committee in January.
But he said Buttigieg’s CNN town hall in March was a “watershed moment” for the campaign.
That town hall earned rave reviews from Washington insiders and generated enormous online interest in Buttigieg, which continues today.
Buttigieg has since seen a surge in support in public opinion polls, going from a relative-unknown into the second tier of candidates, alongside former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) and Sen. Kamala Harris
Sen. Bernie Sanders
(I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden
, who is expected to enter the race next week, still hold commanding leads over the rest of the field.
But Buttigieg started raising big money even before the Obama fundraisers got behind him, hauling in $7 million in the first quarter and another $1 million in the 24 hours after he officially launched his campaign last week.
He’s been the subject of glowing media profiles and has a propensity for viral internet moments, such as when he offered condolences in French after the Notre Dame fire.
Buttigieg also raised his national profile by picking a fight with Vice President Pence over LGBT issues and by battling anti-gay protesters on the campaign trail.
Some of Buttigieg’s backers say they’re gobsmacked by the swiftness of his rise.
Colorado businessman David Friedman, who raised more than $1 million for the Obama-Biden campaigns, said Buttigieg wasn’t even on his radar until recently.
Now, Friedman’s all in and working with the ambassadors to raise money for Buttigieg.
“I didn’t know Buttigieg existed two months ago,” Friedman said. “I heard him speak a few times and saw him interviewed and I just decided, he’s the one. He’s inspiring. He has that fire in his belly. He appeals to your heart and your head.”