SALEM, N.H. — On a chilly November night, Nicole and John Folopoulos left their son at home to come see presidential hopeful South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speak at Salem High School.

The Sandown residents typically don’t pay attention to politics, but this year the 37-year old candidate has caught their attention. They say they like his intelligence and personable demeanor.

“Pete makes sense,” Nicole Folopoulos said. “He’s intelligent and can handle any question he is given.”

Buttigieg answered questions ranging from how to find peace in the Middle East, combating the climate crisis and how to help American’s mental health care for a packed house at the newly-renovated Salem High School Performing Arts Center.

“He explains it so everyone can understand, he has a plan for everything,” John Folopoulos said.

The parents recall the days after the 2016 election taking care of their newborn son while watching the news. Though they voted in the 2016 election, they were thinking “we dropped the ball as Americans," he added. But they are hopeful with the crop of candidates for the Democratic nomination and have settled on casting their ballots for Buttigieg in February.

“It’s almost like we had to hit rock bottom to find policies and solutions,” Nicole Folopoulos said.

With over a dozen policy proposals, Buttigieg is hopeful that his plans ranging from “Medicare for All Who Want it” to building a national service organization are the best, and that American voters see that.

“What I see is something we have not seen in my lifetime yet, a majority of Americans ready to go on meaningful action from healthcare to doing something on gun violence,” Buttigieg said to The Eagle-Tribune just before taking the stage. “We can use that energy and that readiness to get big things done, if we make sure we are holding people together. We need to make sure we galvanize, not polarize.”

The former intelligence officer for the United States Navy reserve, who was a Rhodes Scholar, wants to lead in a progressive direction without leaving anyone out, he said. When asked about climate change, Buttigieg replied that rural America, which typically votes Republican, is a huge asset because of the farm lands and conservation areas.

“The original carbon capture is plants,” he said. “If we can pay billions to soybean farmers to not sell to China, we can pay for conservation stewardship programs.”

While answering questions, Buttigieg made sure to show a sense of humor while explaining his plans thoroughly, which is all part of his campaign strategy.

“Another thing is how to explain how we can actually get these things done so it doesn’t sound like just one more promise from a politician,” he said. “It’s why you will hear me speak in language that’s a little more practical, not going out to the extremes as much, but offering very big things that will make a big difference.”

That’s one of the reasons why Buttigieg is calling his healthcare plan “Medicare for All Who Want it.”

He doesn’t want to assume that people will be ready to switch to a public option right away, though it will be appealing with a cap on costing no more than 8.5% of a person’s income, he explained.

“With the purchasing power and with the scale of what we can do with this Medicare for All Who Want it option, it is going to be the best option for most Americans, but I’m not going to require anybody to get onto it,” he said thinking particularly of union members.

In the still crowded primary field, Buttigieg is laying out his policies to show people why he is the best candidate.

“These are substantive, respectful policy differences,” he said. “I’m proud to be part of this field, it is an unbelievably talented and diverse field of candidates and it reflects well on our party. I’m competing with all the others because I think my vision is the best one.”

Sharing his hopeful message with the Salem crowd, many people wanted to get campaign signs leaving the high school. Beth McGuire of Windham came out of the school energized to vote for him in February because of Buttigieg’s “idealism that can be implemented.”

The retired Windham High School principal is particularly excited for his education policy proposals and she hopes that people take the time to research policy proposals during this time before the primary.

“We have to come together as a country and get big things done, not to listen to anybody who is telling you either bold action requires alienating half of the country, or that coming together means giving up on big ideas,” Buttigieg said. “We can do both, as a matter of fact we have to do both.”

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