Erik Smith, a Democratic strategist who worked on Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, said none of the candidates or their staffers have experience running in such a crowded primary contest, which puts a premium on the need to be nimble and creative. “They’re used to having a two-way primary and a two-way general,” he said. “Those habits don’t serve you well in a multicandidate primary, particularly one as long and substantive as this.”
Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Warren began their rise in the public polling as they became more frequent presences on cable TV. Since April 1, the most-mentioned Democratic presidential candidates on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren and Mr. Buttigieg, according to data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive.
Mr. Buttigieg, who rose from 1 percent support to 14 percent in three months in polling conducted for the Des Moines Register and CNN, has been powered largely by his appearances on televised town hall-style programs, which have helped him create a fund-raising colossus rivaled only by Mr. Biden’s when it comes to tapping major donors, said Rufus Gifford, the finance chairman for Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.
“It’s Trumpian, to a certain extent, in that it’s refreshing in its honesty,” said Mr. Gifford, who has co-hosted fund-raising events for both Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg and has made the maximum $2,800 contribution to Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California. “There’s something about him where he feels less polished than the other candidates in the race, in a good way.”
Darcie Derby, a 43-year-old who works at a Cedar Rapids logistics company, said she first saw Mr. Buttigieg during his February appearance on Stephen Colbert’s late-night talk show. Since then she and her sister have been sharing Buttigieg stories and memes on their Facebook pages, she said.
“I’m looking for something fresh and new for America,” said Ms. Derby, who wore a black shirt bearing the phonetic pronunciation of his name: “BOOT EDGE EDGE.”