The good news for 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, is that he is no longer bringing up the rear in Iowa.

He’s leading the pack, in fact.

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He’s beating Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) by 9 points as of Monday in a new CNN/Des Moines Register poll of likely caucus attendants.

That’s right.

He’s 16 points up there since September.

That’s impressive.

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His boyish looks, Rhodes Scholar education, and military service have aided his rise.

Being gay is also a massive positive when it comes to Democrat primaries, as it gives the patina of cultural rebellion without having to engage in the actual substance of it, in my view.

What is simultaneously worrying to his campaign staff and to mostly white supporters is his seeming inability to engage significantly with minority voters.

And if a person can’t do that, especially in the vital Super Tuesday primary contest, he or she can forget about even coming close to the Dem nomination.

On the flip side, it would be like a Republican hemorrhaging the support of those who work in real estate.

Now, should race matter at all in who one supports for elected office? According to Dr. Martin Luther King and fair people everywhere, no. But many race hustlers have had complete control of the Democratic Party since 1972.

Thus, if a candidate doesn’t dance to their tune and refuses to support unfair and unethical programs such as affirmative action, minority set-sides, or reparations — they are D.O.A. before they ever get to Iowa.

Buttigieg knows this and acts accordingly. So it is not his policies. It comes down to optics and image.

He can’t do much about the image. The man is so whitebread he could sport an Afro and dashiki and still look like Greg Brady’s less groovy cousin.

The optics are another story. And unfortunately for Buttigieg — an optics story hit on Monday that rained on his poll numbers a bit.

His campaign apparently had been using stock images of black people on his website — and black people who aren’t Americans, either.

The photo in question apparently showed a Kenyan woman with a young child.

See this tweet thread about it:

As a former political campaign director and corporate PR exec, I feel confident in asserting that many websites in both business and in politics use stock photos for at least some of their stories or some of the time.

But in the hypersensitive racial environment of a Democratic primary today, this is seen as a horrible and bigoted gaffe by opposing candidates who — even as they criticized Buttigieg — were no doubt instructing their staffs to meticulously comb their own material and websites to remove any faux or offending staged photos.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said on Monday, “He’s going to have to answer for that.”

Translation: “I’m going to try and breathe some life into my dying campaign in the next debate” — which is coming up this Wednesday night — “by accusing a guy of indirect racism.” Oh yeah, that oughta work.

A member of the Democratic squad has already weighed in on the issue, too.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted that this action by Buttigieg is “not OK or necessary.”

It’s a bump in the road for Buttigieg and is far outweighed by his good poll numbers in Iowa. However, he’s got to get with minority voters — or he will have to answer for it on the road to the nomination.

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