FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — In his first visit to Iowa since officially launching his campaign, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday that the state with the initial nominating votes "will be really central to our strategy."
"There's a political style here that rhymes a lot with my home territory in Indiana," Buttigieg said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think that the mechanics of a caucus really favor a style that involves a lot of engagement, which is how I like to practice politics ... of course there's a simple logistical advantage of it being the one early state that's within driving distance of my home."
The South Bend mayor has surged from a relatively unknown candidate in the field to a media darling who's gained support in nationwide polling and posted a stronger-than-expected fundraising number in the first quarter. He's drawn attention for his plainspoken style, and the historic nature of his candidacy, as the first openly gay contender in a same-sex marriage.
In Iowa on Tuesday, both aspects of his campaign— his rhetorical strengths and his unique personal story — were highlighted when a religious protester confronted him during a town hall in Fort Dodge.
After Buttigieg spoke about the need for marriage equality, the protester stood up and shouted, "You betray your baptism!" He was then escorted out.
Buttigieg joked to the crowd, "Coffee after church gets a little rowdy sometimes."
Buttigieg also said: "We're so dug-in, in such passionate ways, and I respect that, too. That gentleman believes that what he is doing is in line with the will of the creator. I'd do it differently. We ought to be able to do it differently."
Asked by the AP how he would win over a protester like that if he could sit down with him, Buttigieg said, "I'm not sure he would want to sit down with me," but that he hoped others who have concerns about his candidacy would come to his events and ask a question, "so we could have a respectful exchange."
"There are a lot of positions, there's a wide range, with fringes, in our politics. That's part of how politics works, and you shouldn't be in this if you aren't prepared to deal with that," he said.