Pete Buttigieg suffers awkward ‘please clap’ moment while pitching himself as the next Obama to voters
2020 hopeful urges a silent audience to respond to an applause line in his stump speech
Pete Buttigieg apparently pleaded with a silent crowd to clap for an applause line during a recent campaign event in Iowa, echoing 2016 Republican candidate Jeb Bush's infamous "please clap" moment along the campaign trail.
The 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana was touring the crucial early voting state, where he has reportedly been pitching himself to voters as the next Barack Obama, when the awkward bit occurred.
Mr Buttigieg was explaining how he’d govern as president “by having better hands guided by better values on those pulleys and levers of American government” before he urged attendees of the event to support his platform.
“I’m going to look to you to spread that sense of hope to those that you know”, the 2020 Democratic hopeful said.
He then paused and looked out towards the crowd, which declined to cheer — or even clap — after delivering the spirited line from his stump speech.
With a seemingly pained grin on his face, Mr Buttigieg added: “Come on!”
The crowd then slowly began to applause, as a few supporters lifted “Pete 2020” signs into the air. Mr Buttigieg let out a brief chuckle before continuing with his speech.
A video of the moment was shared online and quickly went viral, as Mr Buttigieg was chided for falling flat during his speech.
Mr Buttigieg, a relatively unknown political figure before announcing his bid for the White House, has steadily risen in the polls while offering a more centrist platform than Democratic candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
His speeches typically feature calls for “unity” and “hope” that are not dissimilar to Mr Obama’s presidential campaigns. However, Mr Buttigieg has struggled to capture support among minority voters, who helped build a diverse Democratic coalition that sailed the former president to victory in both 2008 and 2012.
The candidate’s tense moment of applause was quickly compared to when Mr Bush was telling voters how he would work to create “a more peaceful” world in February 2016, when he was met with total silence from voters.
“Please clap”, the candidate said, sounding exasperated.
Mr Buttigieg wasn’t the only one to face a “please clap” moment along the campaign trail in 2020. Before he ultimately decided not to launch an official bid for president, former Starbucks chief Howard Schultz was also forced to ask students at Purdue University to clap for a line of his speech.
“The cost of an education here will be less expensive in nominal dollars in 2020 than it was in 2012. Congratulations,” Mr Schultz said to total silence, before adding: “You gotta clap for that,” he added after a long pause.
A key difference between the instances involving Mr Bush and Mr Schultz with that of Mr Buttigieg was that, while Mr Bush and Mr Schultz suffered abysmal polling numbers, Mr Buttigieg has continued attracting supporters while touring through early voting states, according to local surveys.
Analysts said Mr Buttigieg may prove to have a strong showing in Iowa, the first state to hold a vote and one that is predominantly white, which could potentially help propel him to the Democratic nomination.