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Pete Buttigieg, symbol of democratic indecision

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Democratic Party nomination contestant Pete Buttigieg at an election rally in Ames, Iowa, on January 13. BRENNA NORMAN / REUTERS

The statue of John Wayne remains stoic in the snow in his hometown of Winterset, lost amidst the emaciated fields of Iowa, this Monday, January 13. But, three weeks before the first votes in the Democratic Presidential nomination race on February 3, it is above all the uncertainty that is driving this campaign. According to Dan Balz, seasoned political columnist of the Washington Post, the importance of the issue of November 3 would tend to paralyze the Democrats. "Above all, they don't want to get the wrong candidate because, for them, beating Donald Trump is essential, so they hesitate even more than usual", believes there.

The most followed survey of this rural State, carried out by the "popesse" J. Ann Selzer for the Des Moines Register, gives four candidates practically neck and neck, while more than half of those questioned say they have not yet made their choice. There are familiar figures: two senators, Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), a former vice-president, Joe Biden, who remains a national favorite, and an ex-stranger, Pete Buttigieg. Come this Monday to meet potential voters of Madison County, which includes Winterset, the latter is indeed the symbol and the potential beneficiary of this indecision.

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Less than a year ago, his main difficulty was to make a name for himself, with the additional obstacle of a surname of Maltese origin guaranteed unpronounceable. His first election for Indiana treasurer in 2010 ended in a sharp defeat. After his election and re-election as mayor of South Bend, his hometown, in a state that is the bastion of Republican Vice President Mike Pence, his attempt to become head of the Democratic Party had also come to a halt in 2017. He may yet dream today of an unlikely victory in Iowa. It would rekindle the memory of Barack Obama, whose presidential fate was tied during the 2008 caucuses.

At 37, this well-made head passed successively through the best schools, the McKinsey consulting firm, and Afghanistan – after joining the ranks of the Navy as a reserve officer – is the sensation of the Democratic race. In front of the voters already won over to his cause and the undecided of Winterset, as later in the student city of Ames, seat of Iowa University, he exudes the same mastery and the same maturity as in televised debates.

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