Pete Buttigieg Will Be 'the Factor On the Debate Stage' That Everyone Talks About, Political Analyst Says

Political analyst Jamal Simmons has suggested that when it comes time for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to debate, Pete Buttigieg is the one who will be the hot topic of conversations.

"I think Mayor Pete Buttigieg is going to be the factor on the debate stage that we will all be talking about afterwards," Simmons said Sunday on CBS News' Face the Nation. "He's somebody who's willing to say what he thinks."

Simmons then pointed out that while Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, may be the youngest person exploring a 2020 bid, "he seems to be among the most mature."

"He's coming at this with values. He's putting policy on the table," Simmons explained. "He's a very strong campaigner."

Although the Democrat, who announced his exploratory 2020 campaign in January, has admitted that his run is a long shot, he has been gaining in the polls after a series of high-profile media appearances. A week ago, Buttigieg jumped to third place in an Emerson poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa, behind former Vice President Joe Biden and independent Senator Bernie Sanders. The mayor came in with 11 percent support, compared with Biden's 25 percent and Sanders' 24 percent.

An average of national polls by Real Clear Politics shows Buttigieg in seventh place overall with 2.2 percent, above numerous other high-profile candidates. The latest Quinnipiac survey showed him at 4 percent, tied with Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. An editorial published by CNN earlier this month hailed Buttigieg as "the hottest candidate in the 2020 race right now," comparing his rise on the national stage to that of President Barack Obama.

Discussing the young mayor's rapidly growing national profile, his communications adviser, Lis Smith, told CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday that the goal has been to get Buttigieg's message out there and talk to people.

"If you are someone that is comfortable in who you are, comfortable in your own skin—and that is something that Mayor Pete definitely is—it makes sense to get out there," she said.

Buttigieg has pushed back against those who have suggested he is not qualified to consider a presidential run, as he has only served as mayor of a city of 100,000 people. He has responded by pointing out that he has more executive political experience than President Donald Trump did when he was elected. The mayor has also touted his experience serving as a Navy Reserve lieutenant, pointing out that he has "more military experience than anybody who's arrived behind that desk since George H.W. Bush."

"What we're trying to do is put forward an account of where America is headed, what we think we need to do about it, what freedom, security and democracy mean in substantive terms, especially why they point in a progressive direction, in my point of view," he said in a Sunday interview on BuzzFeed News' AM2DM show. "The most important thing is substance."

The young candidate has also not shied away from showing off his sense of humor. Speaking at a Friday night event in San Francisco, Buttigieg joked that the ideal nominee would be a "really, kind of forward-thinking, inclusive, new generation, young, good-looking mayor." He also noted that he was "definitely the only left-handed, gay, Maltese-American Episcopalian in the race."

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Commonwealth Club of California on March 28 in San Francisco Justin Sullivan/Getty Images