Kathleen Struck, Esha Sarai contributed to this report.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has become the latest Democrat to formally enter the crowded field of presidential candidates seeking to unseat Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

The 37-year-old, who announced a presidential exploratory committee in January, made it official at a rally in South Bend on Sunday.

The Harvard and Oxford graduate and Afghanistan war veteran has gone from being virtually unknown on the national political landscape to surging in recent polls, placing third behind behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. 

New Hampshire is the first state in the U.S. to hold a primary for presidential elections.
US Presidential Candidates Woo New Hampshire Voters
For many across the country, the 2020 presidential campaign is still a distant thought, even while 18 Democrats have signaled their candidacy.But in New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation primary, residents say they’re excited to participate in what they call their state sport: politics.“It’s not early to be campaigning,” Danny Arnold, a Dover, New Hampshire, resident, said while waiting for New York Sen.

The son of an immigrant from Malta, Buttigieg attended Harvard College around the same time as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He received a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, spent seven months in Afghanistan in the U.S. Navy Reserves as an intelligence analyst and driver and worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company. Reportedly he speaks seven languages, some of them fluently, including Spanish and Norwegian.

And in 2011, he was elected mayor of his hometown, South Bend, population 100,000.

Buttigieg would be America's first openly gay president. His husband, Chasten, has also won over many American voters.

"As for my husband, you know I'm pretty biased, because I love him, but it's pretty great to see that the rest of America is falling in love with him too," Buttigieg said at a recent appearance in New Hampshire.

FILE -  Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to local residents during a stop at the Central Park Coffee Company in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, March 15, 2019.
2020 Candidates Target College Campuses, Court Young Voters
Austin Anderson was excited to see Beto O'Rourke on his college campus last week, intrigued by his "character" and talk of bipartisanship. But would he support the former Texas congressman in next year's Iowa caucuses? "It doesn't feel like it's at the top of the list," the Iowa State University senior said. "I'm looking for a job right now. I'm, like, a dumb 21-year-old who worries about girls ... and schoolwork.

The South Bend mayor has raised more than $7 million so far and assured himself a spot in the Democratic presidential debates that begin in June. Analysts say it remains to be seen if Buttigieg can maintain his recent momentum.

"Sometimes candidates have a few weeks or few months of stardom and then another 'it candidate' replaces them," Leah Askarinam, a reporter and political analyst for Inside Elections, told VOA. "So I think we know he's viable. I don't think we know at this point that he's going to be a star in the field."

At least 18 Democrats are in the run to become the party's nominee to face off against President Donald Trump in next year's election.