DES MOINES — Pete Buttigieg figured this early in his presidential campaign he still would be helping people learn how to pronounce his last name.
Instead, Buttigieg — pronounced boot-edge-edge — is enjoying an early surge, garnering the attention of Democratic voters in Iowa and increased support in polling on the infant primary race.
Buttigieg said he can feel support growing on the campaign trail, including in Iowa, where he spent the day Tuesday after making his candidacy official last weekend in South Bend, Ind., where he has served as mayor since 2012.
Buttigieg on Tuesday participated in a town hall in Fort Dodge and held a campaign rally in Des Moines. The town hall was standing room only, and more than 1,600 attended the rally, which started out as a meet-and-greet with 50 people before interest exploded, organizers said.
“To have vaulted into the higher tier as we have is really encouraging,” Buttigieg said before the rally. “But I also know that this is just the beginning. We have a lot of work to do.”
Despite his lack of national profile, Buttigieg in recent polls has been placing among the second tier candidates behind polling front-runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
In an Iowa poll published last week by Monmouth College, Buttigieg at 9 percentage points trailed only Biden (27) and Sanders (16).
One of 19 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, the 37-year-old Buttigieg is the first millennial and first openly gay presidential candidate from a major political party.
Two men interrupted Buttigieg’s remarks at the rally, yelling, “Remember Sodom and Gomorrah,” a reference to the Biblical passage about two cities that were destroyed by God as punishment for the sexual behavior of the people who lived there.
After the first man was led away by security, Buttigieg said to the crowd, “The good news is the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa caucuses are up to you.”