The Buttigieg-Obama comparison is more than stylistic. Buttigieg — purposely, obviously — positioned himself to be the substantive heir to the former president. He deflected criticisms that he lacked Washington experience by using it to distance himself from the capital’s tiresome ideological food fights.

Obama frequently argued against a “false choice” between competence and energy, pragmatism and idealism. What distinguished Buttigieg was not his policy platform, which closely resembled that of many of his opponents, but how he allowed voters to feel as though they could support him without selling out or joining the barricades.

Campaigning in Iowa, Buttigieg criticized former vice president Joe Biden for lecturing Democrats to “fall back on the familiar.” On the other hand, he accused Sanders of insisting that “you’re either for a revolution or you gotta be for the status quo, and nothing in between.”