Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, told NBC News' Craig Melvin he's as "surprised as anyone" to be rising in the primary field.
On the question of whether the 37-year-old mayor is too young or too inexperienced to be president, Buttigieg countered that he's actually more experienced than both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, saying he has "more governmental experience than Trump and more executive governmental experience than the vice president."
Buttigieg, a former naval intelligence officer, has served as South Bend's mayor since 2012. Pence, who hails from Buttigieg's state, served as governor of Indiana from 2013 until he began his vice presidency in 2017. That stint followed a run as a congressman from 2001 through 2013.
In discussing how he would take on the president in a head-to-head battle, Buttigieg said he would do so with "a very different energy" than Trump. He added that he wasn't concerned if that meant Trump would label him as a "low-energy" candidate, as he did with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Polling shows Buttigieg just trailing the top-tier of Democratic candidates. The RealClearPolitics polling average shows Buttigieg at nearly 7 percent, behind only former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kamala Harris. D-Calif.