He is a longshot candidate, but South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday he is jumping into the burgeoning 2020 Democratic field challenging Donald Trump, aiming to become the first openly gay presidential nominee.

Should he win, the 37-year-old wunderkind, a US Navy reservist who took leave from his mayoral duties to serve in Afghanistan, would also be America's youngest-ever commander in chief.

Buttigieg announced that he has formed a presidential exploratory committee, a key opening step to formally launching a bid.

He joins a growing list of charismatic Democrats seeking to carry the party's torch into 2020, including three female US senators - Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand - and Hispanic-American former Obama cabinet member Julian Castro.

In a nearly-two-minute video posted online, Buttigieg portrayed himself as a can-do reformer - he has earned high praise for reviving his mid-sized Indiana city - from America's millennial generation eyeing the future, not the past.

"Right now our country needs a fresh start," he says in the clip.

"There's no such thing as again in the real world. We can't look for greatness in the past."

In his opening video he makes no mention of Trump, instead taking aim at what he called the "show" in Washington: "The corruption, the fighting, the lying, the crisis. It's got to end."

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And he highlights his credibility as being part of a new forward-focused generation facing immense challenges.

"We're the generation that lived through school shootings, that served in the wars after 9/11. And we're the generation that stands to be the first to make less than our parents - unless we do something different," he said.

Buttigieg was in the early primary state of Iowa last year, testing out a campaign message and attempting to build name recognition.

He is up against a strong Democrat field of contenders, which will broaden in the coming months to include the likes of former vice president Joe Biden, Senator Cory Booker, former congressman Beto O'Rourke, and Senator Bernie Sanders, the runner-up for the 2016 Democratic nomination.

"Longest of longshots, but this 37-year-old gay, Afghanistan War vet has a remarkable story," David Axelrod, a senior aide to then-president Barack Obama, said on Twitter.

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Buttigieg was elected mayor at just 29. He was born and raised in South Bend, studied in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earned a degree in history from Harvard University. He married Chasten Glezman, a teacher, last year.

He has been mentioned as a potential presidential hopeful for years. In June 2016, The New York Times ran a profile of Buttigieg titled, "The first gay president?"

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