Joe Biden is facing a fresh threat in polls from South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who became a top contender for the support of centrist Democrats if the former vice president falters.
Buttigieg has emerged as a fundraising powerhouse and will enter the final stretch before the Iowa caucuses in February flush with cash. Buttigieg has more than $23 million in the bank, compared to only $9 million for Biden, a shockingly low number for a front-runner, The Hill reported.
The Buttigieg campaign reports that it raised $1 million from tens of thousands of donors just hours after the debate ended on Tuesday.
Buttigieg has been on the rise in recent Iowa polls. In the past month, Buttigieg has raised his average by 4.5 points in the RealClearPolitics, and a Firehouse-Optimus survey released this week found him in third place at 17 percent in the Hawkeye State, within striking distance of both Senator Elizabeth Warren, at 25 percent, and Biden, at 22 percent.
The South Bend mayor fought for moderate Democrats feeling marginalized by the left, which places him in direct conflict with Biden in the battle for centrist primary voters.
Buttigieg has slammed Warren over her “Medicare for All” proposal, and accused the senator of not talking about how she’d pay for it. And he’s clashed with former Rep. Beto O’Rourke over his mandatory gun buyback plan, which Buttigieg describes as an unrealistic and divisive proposal at a time when Congress might otherwise be able to achieve incremental gun safety reforms.
The sum total has some Democrats envisioning something that seemed unlikely only a few weeks ago – a race for the nomination that comes down to Warren or Senator Bernie Sanders on the left, with an opening for Buttigieg to supplant Biden as the party’s centrist standard-bearer.
“He really did stand out in this debate,” said Robert Zimmerman, a top Democratic donor. “He presents a challenge to Biden.”