Why Obama Doesn't Think Pete Buttigieg Can Win a Presidential Election

New book reveals former president's true feelings about the 2020 Democratic field

September 16, 2022

Former president Barack Obama thought Pete Buttigieg was "too short" to win the 2020 presidential election, according to a recently published book about Obama's relationship with former running mate Joe Biden.

"Obama had actually been impressed by the brains, charisma, and chutzpah of the thirty-something mayor of a small midwestern city," writes New York magazine correspondent Gabriel Debenedetti in The Long Alliance. "Obama just doubted it would all add up to viability in a presidential campaign where image and fame mattered immensely—he thought Buttigieg was too short and, as a former volunteer for Obama in 2008, seemed too young—and where such a large field would make breaking through that much harder."

The Washington Free Beacon first reported on Buttigieg's height problem in February 2020, several weeks before the former South Bend mayor dropped out of the race after failing to win a statistically significant percentage of black voters. At that point, former president Donald Trump had been mocking Mayor Pete's diminutive stature for months. Our reporting, which noted the curious lack of information about Buttigieg's height available on the world wide web, determined that he is 5 foot 8 inches tall at most.

Obama is right. Buttigieg is way too short to be president. Every single commander in chief since William McKinley (1897-1901) has been at least 5 foot 9 inches tall. It's never going to happen, but height isn't the only reason. Debenedetti also notes that Obama was rightfully "turned off by Buttigieg's apparent inability to win over nonwhite voters" in the Democratic primary.

Biden was similarly impressed by Buttigieg's "gay Obama" schtick but "also thought everyone was kidding themselves" about his viability as a candidate. "The guy had gotten destroyed in the piddling race for DNC chair in 2017, so how was he going to be the party's presidential nominee?" Debenedetti writes of Biden's thinking at the time. The former VP was particularly annoyed when a bunch of former Obama staffers started lining up behind Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke, another candidate with no shot at winning. "You believe this shit?" Biden would often vent to aides and associates.

Of course, Obama didn't even want Biden to run in 2020 (or 2016). "You don't have to do this, Joe, you really don't," he reportedly told his former vice president before Biden declared his candidacy. As the Democratic primary wore on, Obama tried to warn his fellow Democrats not to "underestimate Joe's ability to fuck things up."

Right again.