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(CORALVILLE, Ia.) – Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg says he’s confident heading into Monday night’s caucuses, but he’s declining to publicly set a do-or-die target for how well he needs to do.

Buttigieg led some Iowa polls in December, but the polling averages now show him running third behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Buttigieg calls Iowa, and the early primaries which follow in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, are “absolutely critical” to his campaign. He says the caucuses are his campaign’s first chance to “show, not tell” it can turn out actual votes, not just points in a poll.

Buttigieg has sought to turn his youth and lack of Washington experience into an asset, arguing every victorious Democrat of the last half-century was able to run as a new face from outside Washington — or, in the case of Barack Obama, a new face who had only recently arrived in Washington. He says the caucuses are his opportunity tp show the strength of both his organization and his message.

Buttigieg is scheduled to make a five-city swing through New Hampshire the day after Iowa votes.

Pete Buttigieg (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)