(CN) – The former mayor of an Indiana town, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg made his case Thursday for his electability on the national stage while addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
One of the biggest question marks surrounding Buttigieg’s campaign is his qualifications, and whether a small town mayor has the right experience to be president. The former South Bend mayor’s speech served mostly as a pitch to answer that question.
During his roughly 14-minute speech, Buttigieg hit topics such as infrastructure and climate change, but spent a majority of his time preaching unity and arguing that his time as a mayor of a small town would successfully translate to being president.
Buttigieg spoke about the political blindness it takes to be a successful mayor, and how a successful executive must serve everyone in their community.
Mayors understand “the policy picture through the human story and not the other way around,” he said at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting in Washington, D.C.
Buttigieg never uttered President Donald Trump’s name during the speech, only referring to Trump as “this president,” but he did levy criticism at the Republican incumbent by slamming his perceived lack of unity.
“I believe it is clear today that the most costly deficiency of our current president is the failure to understand this calling of leadership,” Buttigieg said. “You cannot fully love a country, if you hate half of the people in it.”
In a more tangible criticism, Buttigieg knocked Trump’s attempt at infrastructure legislation and expressed disappointment in the president by remarking that he thought this was the one hopeful policy area under the current administration.
“To some extend he had me fooled,” the ex-mayor said.
Buttigieg countered by touting his own proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which he says would create 6 million well-paying jobs and ensure clean drinking water for every community in the United States.
The first vote in the Democratic presidential primary is right about the corner with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, giving Buttigieg precious little time to continue to make his case for the party’s nomination.
The shortening timeframe before that first vote in Iowa was not lost on Buttigieg, as he mentioned Iowa several times during his speech Thursday.
As recently as December, Buttigieg led in many of the polls for the Iowa caucuses, but he currently sits behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in most polls.
Despite his diminished standing, an average of those polls shows Buttigieg well within striking distance and only a little less than 5 percentage points behind Biden, who is considered the front-runner.
Buttigieg closed his speech by expressing what he as a former mayor could do for the country.
“I’m running because we don’t have to choose between our head and our heart. We don’t have to choose between how best to win and how best to govern. We don’t have to choose between unity and boldness, we can’t have any of those things if we do not have all of those things. Put a mayor in charge and look towards to the future. This will be our chance to turn the page,” he said.