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Buttigieg Vows Pragmatic ‘Pathway’ to Shared Progressive Goals in Courting Warren, Sanders Backers

Pete Buttigieg speaks at his New Hampshire primary-night rally in Nashua, N.H., February 11, 2020. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

Former South Bend., Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg courted progressive supporters of his opponents Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in an interview this morning, vowing to usher in “the most progressive presidency” in 50 years while remaining practical about what can be accomplished.

Buttigieg, speaking on Morning Joe following his second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, pitched supporters of Warren — who was shut out of delegates by finishing fourth on Tuesday — and first-place Sanders, while bashing the pair for refusing to acknowledge spending limitations that will constrain their vision for single-payer health care and environmental policy.

Pitching himself as a pragmatic alternative, Buttigieg explained that “there’s a better way to get these things done — to confront climate, deliver health care, empower workers, ensure corporations and the wealthy are paying their fair share.”

“I’m inviting them to join me in a campaign that will produce the most progressive presidency that we have had in a half century, and yet do it in a way that can serve to better unify the country,” Buttigieg said. “. . . On issue after issue after issue, we share the same goals. What I’m offering is a way to do it, that can actually get achieved, that is paid for, and that’s a really important thing to.”

The former mayor highlighted health care, an issue on which he has sought to differentiate himself from both Warren and Sanders in the past. In October, Buttigieg released an ad saying Warren and Sanders were “infringing on freedom” with their support for Medicare for All, and posited his own ““Medicare for All Who Want It,” which maintains a private market, as a reasonable alternative. He echoed the same sentiment on Wednesday.

“If progressives are right that the public coverage would be the best, then eventually everybody will choose it and it will become Medicare for All,” he argued. “This is a pathway to get there that has a little bit of humility built into it, recognizing that if some people would rather keep their private plans, then that’s okay too.”

Buttigieg also criticized Sanders for his lack of a funding proposal for Medicare for All, which the Vermont senator defended in October, saying that “of course, we can pay for it” without elaborating on specific details, instead saying, “We’ll have that debate.”

“You look at Senator Sanders’s plans — again, speaking of goals that we all share — but the whole in explain how to pay for them, amounts in his case to $25 trillion dollars of unexplained gap, even after you raise middle class taxes. I don’t think that even progressives really want to be in a world where we can’t keep our promises,” Buttigieg said.

As of Wednesday morning, Sanders led Buttigieg by more than 3,000 votes in the New Hampshire primary with 87 percent of the results reported, but both candidates were tied with nine delegates each.

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