Joe Biden is fighting to keep his bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination on track as interest surges in Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of the rustbelt city of South Bend, Indiana.
Allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women have dealt a serious blow to the 76-year-old former vice-president who, even though he has still formally to declare his candidacy, is seen as Donald Trump’s likeliest opponent.
Mr Biden has apologised for his tactile approach, but he has found himself the butt of satire on Saturday Night Live.
His handling of the issue – including making a joke about the controversy on Friday – attracted further criticism over the weekend.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who is considering entering the presidential race himself, condemned Mr Biden’s flippant approach on State of the Union, a Sunday Morning political show.
“I don’t think anyone should make jokes about it,” he said.
According to the latest poll by Morning Consult, which spoke to 5,000 Democrat voters, Mr Biden is still the most popular choice for the nomination.
However, the poll was taken before the allegations of inappropriate behaviour had gathered steam.
The same poll also showed a dramatic surge of support for Mr Buttigieg, who is credited for reviving a city which had been in decline since the closure of the Studebaker car plant in the 1960s.
Mr Buttigieg was languishing in seventh place among Democratic hopefuls, the poll also showed an 11 per cent rise in his favourability rating over the previous month.
It is this momentum which has led to growing interest in his candidacy among leading commentators, such as Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host, who described Mr Buttigieg as a “rocket ship”.
Mr Buttigieg has avoided commenting on the Biden controversy, telling Fox News that it was not his place to say whether the allegations of inappropriate behaviour should disqualify the former vice president from running for the White House.
“I do think it’s important that he’s addressing it and I’ll leave the rest to him.”
There was further evidence of the “Mayor Pete” surge last Friday when organisers of a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, had to find a larger venue.
Even then dozens had to be turned away from the building, although Mr Buttigieg made a point of addressing them in the carpark.
Significantly several attendees who had backed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016 told the Telegraph they intend to to back Mr Buttigieg in next year’s primary.
Appearing on Meet the Press, a fixture of Sunday morning political broadcasting for decades, Mr Buttigieg sought to cement his position as a politician from America’s heartland.
“I would stack my experience against anyone. I know it’s not traditional, I have not been marinating in Washington for some time,” he said.
“You can see pretty clearly, I am as different from this president as it gets.
“We have to change the channel from this mesmerizing horror show which is going on right now.”
Meanwhile, Tim Ryan, a congressman from Ohio, became the 17th Democrat to enter the race, with a pledge to revive manufacturing in rust belt states which are likely to be key battlegrounds in the election.