While Buttigieg says he is not thinking about the race to be Biden's successor, others are imagining it for him. If the president doesn't run, his name is discussed by aides as a natural Democratic presidential nominee in the 20th century.
One person with direct knowledge of the conversations said that nobody in the West Wing shuts that down. It is very open.
Some staffers of color think that the chatter is disrespectful to the first Black woman vice president and think senior officials should stop it. Some of Buttigieg's former campaign staffers wonder if challenging Harris is feasible given how critical the Black vote is in any Democratic primary. There are some infrastructure waiting in the wings.
The political action committee he formed in the aftermath of the presidential race is mostly keeping quiet, but the website remains up and has been organizing occasional events. According to reports, former campaign aides Michael Halle and Maxwell Nunes are helping keep it afloat. They didn't reply to messages.
Buttigieg said that he was proud to be part of the Biden-Harris team and that they worked well with the vice president's team.
The White House didn't comment.
Buttigieg is getting a taste of what it would be like to sell a presidential agenda.
He was in Phoenix on Friday for a trio of events to promote construction projects and address concerns about the supply chain. There was a lot of praise for him as he met with Arizona Democratic Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.
The two senators sat at a round table at Mesa Community College with Buttigieg and Sinema. The infrastructure bill was signed by Buttigieg.
His first day on the road as a prominent face of the president's infrastructure package, a $550 billion legislative initiative he will help implement and sell to the public, with all the political implications that holds for the president, was his first day on the road.
He said that he was excited about the year ahead and that there would be a lot of ribbon cutting.
While there is no election in sight, Buttigieg is trying to promote the infrastructure deal with some of the same tactics he used in the past. There were lots of interviews with local electeds, Pete's die-hard fans, a protester with a gay sign, and people having trouble pronouncing his name.
Two years ago, there were attempts at that folksy Midwestern humor. He told POLITICO that the infrastructure package is as concrete as it gets. He said that the bipartisan package warmed his heart.
There are differences from the 2020 primary. People now call him Secretary Mayor Pete, Mayor Secretary Pete, Secretary Pete, or the familiar Pete. A new documentary on Buttigieg's campaign was released on Amazon this month.
"I'm the second most famous mayor in my graduating class, and he's not even mayor anymore", laughed Gallego, who attended Harvard University as an undergrad with Buttigieg.
The documentary about Buttigieg's 2020 run brought back a lot of memories, but he wasn't sure if it captured who he is. I don't know how to assess a question like that. He said that he was too close to all of the experiences.
It was an unusual scene for a transportation secretary. Buttigieg is not a typical transportation secretary. He is the first openly gay cabinet Secretary to be Senate-confirmed and a new parent to two adopted kids who have become social media sensations.
He has been at the center of political attention ever since former President Barack Obama dubbed him one of the future stars of the Democratic Party in November 2016 and has drawn the ire of older, more seasoned politicians who believe his rise would be impossible if he weren't a white man.
The current round of presidential speculation is consequential for Buttigieg. The Democratic Party is searching for the next generation of leaders, even more so, because of the persistent questions about whether Biden will run for re-election. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that his aides insist that running again is his intention. Some Democrats think that language is equivocal.
Buttigieg finds himself at the center of the Biden administration's top priorities and main liabilities, which will likely have significant effects on his political future. He is in charge of parts of the supply chain that have been disrupted by the Covid-19 epidemic.
Kelly said at the grant signing that he thinks the secretary of transportation will have the biggest job in decades if he is re-elected.
An earlier version of the report stated that Buttigieg is the first openly gay person to be confirmed by the Senate. He is the first openly gay cabinet Secretary.