Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election

Democratic presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field MORE said he doubts fellow hopeful Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE (I-Vt.) can beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation 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 BidenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California 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.