Rick Jasculca: So Why Mayor Pete?

Ok, the presses won’t be stopping and network political commentators won’t be analyzing the meaning or implications of my decision. Friends and long-time colleagues will be surprised, though.

I had already decided before the “big reveal” in South Bend, but today I’m saying it out loud. In 2020, I’ll be supporting Mayor Pete Buttigieg for President. I do have to first learn how to say his name correctly, ironic for a guy with my moniker.

I’ve been involved in politics since 1960 when, at age 13, I took the bus and L downtown to volunteer at John F. Kennedy’s campaign HQ.

In the decades that followed, I worked on dozens of campaigns, and was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve two US Presidents over the course of twelve White House years.

Most of my long-time political friends will be shocked that I’m not supporting Joe Biden, who I’ve known since 1984 and for whom I had the privilege of doing advance when he was Vice President. Indeed, I too thought I’d be supporting Biden, who is one of the most accomplished and honorable individuals in politics today.  

However, in 2020, that simply will not be enough. If we can step away from tribes and labels, dog whistles and name-calling, one thing is pretty clear in analyzing the past few election cycles—nationally, locally, everywhere.  Voters want dramatic, real change. This mood transcends political parties, their processes, tailored messaging and candidates. This is really a seismic generational shift. And it’s simply time.

Us Baby-boomers have had our shot at it, and then some. History will judge how we did. It’s not my job to do that here today. And, I’m not suggesting that we Boomers should pass the baton and evaporate. Rather, I believe we have an obligation, a moral responsibility to both encourage a new generation of political leadership and provide constructive guidance to help them succeed.

That brings me to Mayor Pete. Of eighteen candidates and counting, why, for Pete’s sake, embrace him? Folks are already asking if he has the requisite experience to be President—as if anybody is prepared to step into The Oval as Commander-in-Chief.

So why? Best answer I can give is: gut feeling from a guy who’s been there. It’s important to assess whether a candidate is grounded, but expansive in terms of world view and a willingness to learn and collaborate; committed to sound policies and capable of moving them forward; possessing sound judgement and a strong moral code, but not preachy about it; and somebody who can connect with people, be they voters, Members of Congress or world leaders. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, to this old hand, passes that test.

I still remember that cold January day in 1961, when JFK took the oath of office and then uttered words that remain relevant today:

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed today at home and around the world.”

FYI, if Buttigieg pulls it off, he’d be only four years younger than JFK on Inaugural Day. It’s time.


Rick Jasculca is co-founder of Chicago-based public affairs firm Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications and served two US Presidents doing White House Advance across the nation and globally. Jasculca has been involved in myriad Presidential campaigns and all but two Democratic Conventions since 1964.