Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election

Democratic presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden, Sanders contend for top place in new national poll Biden leads Democratic primary field nationally: poll Trump to hold rally on eve of New Hampshire primary MORE said he doubts fellow hopeful Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden, Sanders contend for top place in new national poll Biden leads Democratic primary field nationally: poll Warren calls for Brazil to drop charges against Glenn Greenwald MORE (I-Vt.) can beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE in a general election. 

“I have a hard time seeing the coalition ultimately coming together there,” the South Bend, Ind., mayor told The New York Times

Buttigieg added that at the time “people were refreshed by the novelty of that boldness" of Sanders's ideas, but that they are now less exciting. 

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Buttigieg has been criticized this week for saying that in 2016 voters wanted to “blow up the system,” adding that this mentality “could lead you to somebody like Bernie and it could lead you to somebody like Trump. That’s how we got where we are.”

Sanders's campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, pushed back on Buttigieg's assertion, touting Sanders's record of fighting for the working class as the reason he will be able to win in 2020. 

"At a time when Trump has lied to millions of Americans and sold out workers, voters are looking for a leader who they can trust will fight for them," he said in a statement to The Hill.

"He is committed to standing up to powerful corporate interests, taking on the billionaire class, defeating Trump and creating a government that works for all people," he added.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, and Buttigieg are seen as front-runners among the 20 candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

In recent polls, the pair and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE, who is expected to enter the race Thursday, sit in the top three spots of Democratic presidential contenders.

Updated at 3:34 p.m.