Buttigieg: Pence 'embarrassed' Indiana and is 'way out of step with the American mainstream'

Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Ind., who last month set up a presidential exploratory committee, excoriated Vice President Pence over several conservative social policies he says “embarrassed” the state when he was governor.

“I mean that he genuinely believes things that most of us would consider really far out,” Buttigieg, who would be a major party’s first openly gay candidate if he decides to run, said Thursday on CNN’s “New Day.”

“He seems to believe people like me just get up and decide to be gay.” 

“His worldview is one that is way out of step with the American mainstream," he continued, "and we saw that in Indiana when he really embarrassed our state with policies that both Democrats and Republicans, in not just the political world but the business community, stepped up and said, ‘Hey, you’re making us look like a backwards place in just the moment we’re trying to advance.’ And unfortunately he now has a national stage for some of those fanatical social ideas.”

Pence, who has called himself an “evangelical Catholic,” has staked out several staunchly conservative social views. He signed into state law the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which declared the government could not infringe on a person’s ability to practice their religion. However, critics slammed the legislation as giving businesses cover to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

Noting the contrast his campaign would to Pence’s platform, Buttigieg said he recognizes his candidacy would be historic but hopes to be judged on his policies.

“I recognize that there’s a historic quality to this candidacy if and when we run,” he said. “But what I learned in the process in South Bend, when I got reelected with 80 percent of the vote, is most people just care if you’re going to do a good job or not. That’s true of mayors, I hope that’s true of presidents, and I really just want to be evaluated for the ideas I bring to the table.”

Should Buttigieg ultimately decide to run in 2020, he would be joining what is expected to be the most crowded primary field in modern history, with almost every candidate seeking to portray themselves as staunch opponents of the Trump administration.

Several high-profile Democrats have already announced their candidacies, with many more expected to come. Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (D-Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandNew York Rep. Maloney endorses Gillibrand for president Actress Connie Britton endorses former roommate Gillibrand for president Trump singles out local union boss over GM's decision to shutter Ohio plant MORE (D-N.Y.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (D-N.J.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharO'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail Officials dismiss criticism that Trump rhetoric to blame for New Zealand attack Trump reignites criticism of McCain months after senator's death MORE (D-Minn.) — and more — have already announced their presidential bids, with heavyweights such as former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBeto could give Biden and Bernie a run for their money Biden: 'I have the most progressive record of anybody running ... anybody who would run' H.R. 1 falls short of real reform MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (I-Vt.) waiting in the wings.