SOUTH BEND — South Bend always is in the national news as home of a top contender for president or Supreme Court justice. Always?

Well, just think of them all in national headlines over the decades before now. Before former Mayor Pete Buttigieg won the Iowa caucuses, becoming a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Amy Coney Barrett, appeals court judge and Notre Dame law school professor, becoming a top contender and then final choice of President Trump for nomination to the Supreme Court.

Those others? There was Schuyler Colfax, House speaker and vice president in the days of Lincoln and Grant. Then a bit of a gap. OK, South Bend, though home over the decades for outstanding people in many fields, hasn’t been thought of as the cradle of the nationally prominent for the highest political or judicial posts in the land. Not really a stepping stone.

But now? This year, Mayor Pete and Judge Barrett both made headlines everywhere.

Mayor Pete didn’t win the nomination. He remains a national figure, however, destined for a top administration post if Joe Biden wins the presidency and certain, whether or not that happens, to be in future presidential consideration.

Barrett is the Supreme Court nominee. With sufficient support now expected from the Republican majority in the Senate, she is seemingly certain of confirmation and a place on the highest court in the land for decades to come. Her main competition as the president decided on the nomination apparently was a Cuban-American judge in Florida, backed by some presidential advisors as better qualified because she is from that must-win state.

Why all the attention this year for two residents of a middle-size city of just over 100,000? Surely beats the odds. Many big cities and even states haven’t had all this attention for aspirants for president and the Supreme Court.

Why South Bend? Why suddenly this year? Something in the water? A city that now inspires reaching national prominence? Just a coincidence?

And, gee, they are so different, Buttigieg and Barrett. Different views on marriage. Different philosophies of government. Different types of supporters. Avid supporters of Barrett and her conservative judicial philosophy certainly weren’t hoping for Buttigieg to be president. Avid supporters of Buttigieg and his Democratic Party governmental philosophy certainly weren’t hoping for Barrett to be picked to sway the court in a more conservative direction.

Each side really dislikes the views of the other. Buttigieg, in a same-sex marriage, is an outspoken advocate of LGBTQ rights. Supporters of an outspoken conservative such as Barrett want the court to reverse some of those things. Barrett, a devout Catholic, drew support from advocates of repealing Roe v. Wade. Buttigieg is an advocate of choice and retaining the court’s Roe decision.

Advocates of Trump moving ahead with nomination of a justice like Barrett also hope that the court will strike down remaining parts of the Affordable Care Act, hated by them as “Obamacare.” Buttigieg joins in the call of Democrats to save the health care program and vastly expand it.

But there are some similarities. He was born and raised in South Bend and moved back to work and live here. She went to law school at Notre Dame and moved back in 2002 to work and live here.

The similarities go beyond the South Bend connection. Neither is known for loud or angry rhetoric. You just couldn’t imagine Barrett declaring defiantly as Justice Brett Kavanaugh did during his confirmation hearing, “I liked beer. I still like beer.” Nor could you imagine Buttigieg in a campaign speech leading a “lock-him-up” chant about the president.

Both stress their religious values, even as they differ on where some of those values should lead. Both are young as seekers of the positions to which they have aspired. Buttigieg is 38. Barrett is 48. So, both will be around and will be in the news for a long time. Both clearly are very intelligent.

If they happened to meet somewhere in South Bend, due to their personalities and despite their differing political philosophies, they no doubt would be cordial, pleasant toward each other. They even would wish each other well, though not especially well in advancing their philosophies.

All this national attention on South Bend has been kind of nice. Makes the city look good. Better than being cited, if at all, for being a depressed place for so long after Studebaker folded. So, who will be next South Bend resident to be in headlines all over the land for something like president or the Supreme Court? Nobody else this year. But next year? Or the year after? Or not until after a gap stretching as long as the one between Colfax and now? 

Colwell covers Indiana politics for the South Bend Tribune.