MERRIMACK, N.H. – Pete Buttigieg discussed a personal topic on Thursday afternoon in speaking about veterans.
“To any (veteran) here that did not get the welcome home that you deserve ... better late than never for us to say one more time – thank you and welcome home,” the Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend mayor told the crowd.
Buttigieg, who served eight years in the U.S. Navy Reserve, spoke in front of a crowded room of people at the Merrimack American Legion Post 98, addressing issues at an event called “Conversations with N.H. Veterans.” He also answered general questions from attendees about health care, gender equality and immigration.
The small American Legion room was filled with many veterans who were excited to hear Buttigieg speak. Some veterans supported him, while others said they were undecided and wanted to show their armed forces pride.
Merrimack resident Bill Mauser, who served in the Vietnam War, is one of those undecided. But he acknowledged that Buttigieg's naval experience was a factor in attending the event to show support.
“I like vets,” Mauser said. “He's more than just a career politician.”
Other veterans like Reid Douglas, who served in Korea from 1966 to 1967, said Buttigieg's service helped influence their support. But Douglas also outlined other reasons why Buttigieg is the best choice for the Democratic party.
“I just think (Buttigieg) is the most rational, level-headed, well-balanced candidate,” Douglas said. “That's what I'm looking for.”
Undecided voter and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native Chip Burgess, is attending his second New Hampshire presidential primary. For him, Buttigieg's jump from mayor to presidential hopeful is less than ideal. Burgess said Buttigieg has “a great political future,” but added that the mayor could use a couple of more years to gain experience.
Before he answered questions from the crowd, Buttigieg spoke about the importance of providing veterans the necessary care once they finish serving. He addressed veterans directly, many of whom wore regalia representing their service.
“When we talk about taking care of veterans, we're not talking about doing anyone a favor,” Buttigieg said. “We're talking about America's way of keeping its promise that is made in return, and that promise is to take care of (veterans) for the rest of your life.”
Buttigieg's discussion identified ways that – if elected president – he will better support veterans, including pushing for better medical benefits and affordable housing. But his message focused on the simple task of showing love to those who serve.
“We have to do a better job of honoring those who serve just by loving those we serve in uniform,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg answered a broad mix of questions. In responding to a question about his health care plan – “Medicare for All Who Want It” – Buttigieg quipped that, unlike his Democratic competitors, he knows exactly how the plan will be paid for.
“I believe you deserve an explanation on how the proposals I'm offering are going to be paid for,” Buttigieg said, adding that his plan will cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years and be funded primarily by eliminating a tax cut on wealthy individuals passed by the Trump administration.
Buttigieg is a popular candidate among older voters. In the Iowa caucus, he was the first choice among people ages 45-64. But there was a good showing of younger voters at the event. One 17-year-old from California, who declined to give his full name, said he enjoyed Buttigieg's display of confidence in answering questions.
In response to a question about his time in the Navy Reserve, Buttgieg said he learned humility, something he believes is lacking in the current administration. Being in charge, he said, is not about being exalted.
“The purpose of the presidency is not the glorification of the president,” Buttigieg said. “It's the empowerment of the American people.”
DNC chair urges Iowa 'recanvass'
WASHINGTON – The chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday called for a “recanvass” of the results of the Iowa caucuses, saying it was needed to “assure public confidence” after three days of technical issues and delays. “Enough is enough,” party leader Tom Perez wrote on Twitter.
With 97% of precincts reporting, Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are nearly tied for the lead, and both candidates have declared themselves victorious.
The Associated Press said Thursday that it is unable to declare a winner in the contest. Beyond technical issues and Perez's concerns, the Iowa Democratic Party has yet to report results from some satellite caucus sites, from which there are still an unknown number of state delegate equivalents to be won.
– Associated Press