By BRIAN A. HOWEY

??INDIANAPOLIS – He is now the $51 million man. That would be South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who will post $19.1 million on his third quarter FEC report, trailing only Bernie Sanders, who will report $25 million.

??The challenge for Buttigieg now is to translate money into votes. Recent polls indicate that he has a yeoman's amount of work to do on that front.??Last week we reported that one element for a Buttigieg lane to the nomination opening up would be the demise of frontrunner Joe Biden. And last week polls out of Iowa and New Hampshire showing Elizabeth Warren moving into the lead seemed to bear out that potential. On Wednesday, the second of three septengarians in the Democratic race - Sen. Sanders - was hospitalized with heart surgery and the placement of two stents. He is off the campaign trail until further notice.??

On Tuesday, a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found that 40% of likely Democratic voters still believe Joe Biden has the best chance of beating President Trump. In a Winthrop Poll in South Carolina, Biden maintained a 20% lead, 37-17% over Warren, with everyone else in single digits, with Buttigieg at 4%. More importantly, the mayor is getting zero black support, while Biden has a 46-10% lead over Warren with that demographic. The wrinkle for Biden on African-American support is that a national Quinnipiac Poll had Warren picking up 19% of support in that demographic, up 9% over August.??

On Friday, Buttigieg addresses the Indianapolis NAACP at the Marriott Downtown around 7:20 p.m., and you've got to think that unless the mayor can change the dynamic in some compelling fashion, his future is more likely to take place on a Democratic ticket or cabinet. Buttigieg is also opening a new campaign headquarters in South Bend at 6 Thursday night.??

The Buttigieg's spin on the FEC report is that he will have the funding mojo to continue through February. “Summer’s a little softer than spring for sure,” Buttigieg said after a weekend campaign stop in Nevada. “We like where we are. And the bottom line is, we have the resources to go the distance. And I think that’ll be one of the biggest things separating the campaigns.”??

Campaign manager Mike Schmuhl explained, "This is great news and shows that in a crowded field, Pete continues to stand out as having the vision and leadership voters know we need to tackle the urgent problems facing our country. It also positions us solidly as one of the top three fund-raisers in this race.”??

Schmuhl reported that during the third quarter the campaign staff expanded to just under 400 people, including in the early states, where they jumped from 107 to 227 total staff on the ground, working each day to organize communities across the country. They went from zero field offices in those early states to 42.??There are now 21 offices and 100 staffers in Iowa, 12 field offices in addition to a state headquarters; and nearly doubled the staff from 34 to 64 in New Hampshire; five field offices and a staff of 35 in Nevada; and three field offices and 33 staffers in South Carolina.??

Schmuhl added, "Since the outset, our campaign has received more than 1.25 million donations, with an average contribution of about $40. This quarter, our average donation was about $32, showing a sustainable base for further investment. And our email list has continued to see massive growth since the start of our exploratory effort.”??In contrast, Sanders raised $25 million from 1.2 million donors in just the third quarter.

Like Buttigieg, Sanders has faded in the polls, his campaign staff appears to be in  disarray. Sen. Kamala Harris posted $11.6 million and Sen. Cory Booker posted $6 million.??

Buttigieg addressed the "Keep Nevada Blue" rally on Saturday. "This is a state that looks to the future and looks like the future. So I’m glad to be here tonight to talk about what the future of our country can be," Buttigieg said. "Right now, Nevada doesn’t just have a Democratic majority in the legislature, you’ve got the first legislature in America that’s majority women. What’s at stake in 2020 is not only the outcome of an election, but the future of the American project. So we need to summon the courage to change the trajectory of our country. Not four years from now, not a decade from now – but right now."??

This race is still Biden's to lose, with Warren the most likely key challenger at this stage. The impeachment saga has the potential of roiling the Democratic race, but at this posting it is unclear whether President Trump has successfully sullied Joe Biden and the Biden family enough to create the opening for a dramatically altered race.??

Having said that, the polls are still fluid on the commitment most Democrats have to their current favorite candidate. Multiple polls show that many Democratic voters are still open to changing course.