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Jeffrey Gundlach Says ‘Mayor Pete Killed It’ at Democratic Debate

John Gittelsohn

(Bloomberg) -- Count billionaire Jeffrey Gundlach among the finance-industry titans taking note of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

“Mayor Pete killed it tonight,” tweeted Gundlach, whose DoubleLine Capital oversees more than $140 billion, after Wednesday night’s Democratic debate.

He joins fellow billionaire investors Paul Tudor Jones, Michael Novogratz and Blackstone Group Inc. Vice Chairman Tony James in showing support for -- or at least being impressed by -- the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Novogratz, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner, has said he likes Buttigieg even if he’s skeptical he can win, and Jones, founder of Tudor Investment Corp., has called the candidate “my man.”

Buttigieg, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant once considered a long-shot candidate, is the emerging front-runner in Iowa, the first caucus state, with a 7 percentage-point lead over the pack, according to RealClear Politics. He received high marks for his debate performance in Atlanta on Wednesday as scrutiny increased along with his poll numbers.

A moderate candidate such as Buttigieg may prove more enticing than progressives such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as Democratic voters seek a viable opponent to President Donald Trump in 2020, particularly among swing voters who will play a crucial role in the general election.

Wall Street in particular has plenty of reason to be turned off by Democratic candidates on the far left. Sanders and Warren -- both of whom have spurned donations from private, large-dollar fundraisers -- have called for tighter bank regulations and higher taxes on the wealthy, and repeatedly attacked big financial firms and their executives, with billionaires Leon Cooperman and Lloyd Blankfein called out by name in a recent Warren campaign ad.

Gundlach was among the few money managers to predict Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. These days, he frequently criticizes the president’s economic policies, such as driving up the federal deficit. Asked to elaborate on his post-debate tweet, Gundlach said it shouldn’t be read as a Buttigieg endorsement.

“I have never endorsed a political candidate,” he said Thursday in an emailed statement. “I am not doing so now nor will I in the 2020 presidential race.”

He has criticized the prospects for other Democratic candidates, including Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Wednesday’s tweet was Gundlach’s second favorable one about Buttigieg this month, though the last was more equivocal.

“Mayor Pete is very smart,” Gundlach wrote on Nov. 7. “His Hunger Games ‘let them kill each other’ strategy is perfect. Can you name a single policy Pete’s advocating?”

(Updates with Gundlach comments in seventh, eighth paragraphs.)

--With assistance from Amanda Gordon and Sonali Basak.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Gittelsohn in Los Angeles at johngitt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sam Mamudi at smamudi@bloomberg.net, Daniel Taub, Alan Goldstein

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