Author: SARA BURNETT , Associated Press | Published: 3:45 PM EDT April 14, 2019 | Updated: 3:45 PM EDT April 14, 2019
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Pete Buttigieg, the little-known Indiana mayor who has risen to prominence in the early stages of the 2020 Democratic presidential race, made his official campaign entrance Sunday by claiming the mantle of youthful generation ready to reshape the country.
“I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor. More than a little bold, at age 37, to seek the highest office in the land,” he said to cheers of “Pete, Pete, Pete” from an audience assembled in a former Studebaker auto plant.
The South Bend mayor, a Rhodes Scholar and Afghanistan War veteran who has been exploring a White House run since January, has now joined a field of a dozen-plus rivals vying to take on President Donald Trump.
"The forces of change in our country today are tectonic," he said. "Forces that help to explain what made this current presidency even possible. That's why, this time, it's not just about winning an election — it's about winning an era."
Buttigieg will return this week to Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the nation's first nominating contests, to campaign as a full-fledged candidate now being taken more seriously.
Over the past few months, Buttigieg has appeared frequently on national TV news and talk shows and developed a strong social media following with his message that the country needs "a new generation of leadership."
Buttigieg's poll numbers have climbed. Some polls put him behind only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sought the party's nomination in 2016, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet said he's running.
Buttigieg's campaign has raised more than $7 million in the first three months of this year, a total eclipsed by Sanders' leading $18 million but more than Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
"Right now, it's pretty fun," Buttigieg told The Associated Press last month while visiting South Carolina , where he was met by larger-than-expected crowds.
His challenge is finding a way to sustain the momentum over the long term and avoiding becoming a “flavor-of-the-month” candidate. Scrutiny of his leadership in South Bend has increased, as has his criticism of Vice President Gov. Mike Pence , who was Indian’s governor when Buttigieg was in his first term as mayor.