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Pete Buttigieg says Las Vegas has ‘thumb on the scale’ of 2020 race

Sweltering Friday heat was not enough to deter a few hundred people from flocking to a downtown Las Vegas rally held by South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, as he returned to Nevada after a two-month hiatus in which his 2020 stock has dramatically risen.

Buttigieg, one of 24 Democrats running for president, delivered much of his typical campaign speech, which centers on finding unity during troubling times and working together to solve pressing issues such as climate change, gun violence, immigration and campaign reforms with a sense of urgency.

But he also appealed directly to Nevadans, saying that the voters of this state wield considerable political power due to its early caucus.

“You have a thumb on the scale,” Buttigieg said. “Please use it well. Please tell your friends. The biggest decider in whether somebody gets involved who wasn’t already is not whether somebody like me asks them, it’s whether somebody they know asks them.”

Buttigieg told the First Friday crowd that many of his competitors are also in Nevada this week. At least 19 candidates are expected to participate in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees forum on Saturday.

“I believe if we want to (beat President Donald Trump), we have to do something completely different,” Buttigieg said. “We can not look like we are just recycling the same debates that have dominated Washington for as long as I’ve been alive.”

The 37-year-old continued: “And that’s where I come in. Because it doesn’t get more different from the current occupant of the Oval Office than a laid back, young, intellectual, gay, naval war veteran who’s the mayor of a Midwestern city.”

After the event, Buttigieg took a party-first stance when discussing with reporters the testy-two day national debate held earlier this week.

“I do think it’s really critical in a moment like this for us to remember what this is about,” he said. “It’s not about pitting Democrats against each other. It’s about laying out competing visions and remembering that any one of the Democrats running right now would be a dramatic improvement over the current president.”

Buttigieg, a volunteer for former President Barack Obama’s campaign, said he was “puzzled” by the criticism lobbed at Obama by members of his own party.

“We’re talking about one of the most deservedly respected people in this country — certainly in this party,” Buttigieg said. “There’s a reason why among the American people President Obama is dramatically more popular than President Trump.”

Many in Friday’s crowd had waited more than an hour for Buttigieg, who spoke for about 15 minutes before taking photos and signing books with those rabid enough to push themselves to the front of a stage with no shade from the sun.

Sierra Biliott and Samantha Castillo did not make it to the front of the stage in time to meet “Mayor Pete,” but they waved to him as his staff led him away from the event.

“It was great,” Biliott said. “It was short, but I feel like he got in all of his talking points. Seeing him in person was so wonderful. You can see him through a screen and be like ‘it’s just a person running for president,’ but in person it was powerful.”

Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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