How Democrats can take down Pete Buttigieg on the debate stage tonight

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Pete Buttigieg might just be the new 2020 Democratic front-runner. At the very least, he has officially entered the top tier: Polling shows the South Bend, Indiana, mayor topping the polls in the early-voting state of Iowa, and some new polls show him surging in New Hampshire as well.

This rise means it’s Buttigieg’s turn for a debate stage pile-on. Here’s what Democratic candidates ought to scrutinize the mayor on during tonight’s MSNBC Democratic debate in Atlanta, in order to illuminate his shortcomings for primary voters.

Struggles with black voters.
Buttigieg polls abysmally with African Americans, and it’s at least partially his own fault. The other candidates should highlight his failure to appeal to such an important Democratic constituency, including Buttigieg’s dismissal of one aggrieved African American voter — “I’m not asking for your vote” — his poor legacy with the African American community as mayor of South Bend, his touting of fake black endorsements for his proposals, and his tone-deaf usage of stock photos from Kenya in conjunction with proposals meant for African Americans.

“Medicare for all” hypocrisy.
Buttigieg has tried to carve out a somewhat moderate lane on the issue of healthcare, criticizing his competitors such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont for their overly-ambitious, pie-in-the-sky healthcare proposals. He even said that Warren has been “more specific and forthcoming about the number of selfies she’s taken” than her healthcare plan. But so far, his own so-called “Medicare for all who want it” proposal, a public option, has largely escaped scrutiny.

Someone should call Buttigieg out. As the Washington Examiner‘s Phil Klein has explained, a public option “would certainly be less costly and disruptive than a $32 trillion proposal requiring all Americans to enroll in a single government plan that would cancel private insurance for 180 million people. But it would still be extraordinarily expensive and disruptive.”

Won’t a public option push people off their private insurance eventually, too, when employer plans can’t compete with heavily-subsidized government options? And Buttigieg promises to pay for his $1.5 trillion plan by reversing President Trump’s tax cuts, but as Klein notes in regards to Joe Biden’s similar plan, the math doesn’t add up. How can Buttigieg criticize Warren and co. for their failure to explain how they’ll pay for their plans when his own ambitions are also out of touch?

Plus, Buttigieg’s own campaign website calls his “Medicare for all who want it” proposal “a natural glide-path to Medicare for All.” So, doesn’t he basically support, albeit it a few years down the road, essentially the same plan as Warren and Sanders?

A centrist on healthcare, Buttigieg is not. Competitors should expose his disingenuous moderate posturing for what it is.

Lack of qualifications.
Remember: Buttigieg has never held even statewide elected office. He’s a mayor with a dubious legacy of city mismanagement who has zero experience in Congress or diplomacy. Yes, Buttigieg is a compelling, intelligent, articulate person with a decorated educational and military background. But young and politically inexperienced, he is nonetheless. With many voters looking for a return to normalcy after the undoubtedly controversial and tumultuous tenure of Trump, other candidates should make the explicit case that an inexperienced green face isn’t the right nominee.

The other 2020 Democrats need to knock Buttigieg a down a peg or two. If they fail to point out a least a few of his glaring flaws tonight, he might just keep rising in the polls.

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