Buttigieg plans sharper distinctions with Warren, Sanders

Buttigieg plans sharper distinctions with Warren, Sanders
© Greg Nash

RENO, Nev.--South Bend Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Chicago Mayor Lightfoot to Buttigieg: 'Break that NDA' to have 'moral authority' against Trump Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE plans to draw distinctions with two of his leading liberal opponents over spending plans that have defined the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Buttigieg has taken gentle jabs at Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE (I-Vt.), the leading progressive contenders, for their support for Medicare for All and an end to private insurance programs.

In September's presidential debate, Buttigieg asked Warren and Sanders why they didn't trust voters to make their own decisions about health care.

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And in a new advertisement that began running in Iowa last week, Buttigieg pitted his plan against Medicare for All alternatives, without naming either Warren or Sanders.

Buttigieg said Saturday in an interview during his first trip to northern Nevada as a candidate that he thought voters should hear the difference between the two proposals.

"We can be bold -- what I'm proposing is the biggest change we would make to our system since Medicare itself -- without it being my way or the highway. And I want to make sure that contrast is clear and well understood," Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg also said he would draw a distinction with Warren's and Sanders's proposals to end college tuition debt for all students. Buttigieg said some wealthy families could afford to pay their own way.

"I think we can deliver it in a targeted way instead of saying that even the child of a millionaire ought to pay zero tuition," Buttigieg said.

"There may be other issues where you see this too. The way I come at it is that this is about governing. I still believe as I said in one of the debates that we shouldn't be too worried about what Republicans are going to say about us, because they'll say the same nonsense no matter what," he said. "But I do think we have a responsibility to find a way to govern that allows us to deliver bold and needed reforms while unifying rather than further polarizing the country."

Buttigieg has boosted his presence in this first-in-the-West caucus state, with more than 30 staffers on the ground, five offices in the Las Vegas area alone, and several more in Reno and Elko.

Kicking off a Nevada Democratic dinner here Saturday, Buttigieg became the first candidate to submit his paperwork to qualify for the caucuses.

"In five months you all get to pick up the remote, take one last look at that reality show or horror show or game show or whatever you want to call what's going on. You get to pick up the remote and change the channel," Buttigieg told Nevada Democrats.

But Democratic activists attending the dinner here said Buttigieg, and most other Democratic candidates running, had a long way to go before anyone claims front-runner status in a state that is at times overlooked.

"If you want to talk to America, you come to Nevada," Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoDemocrats challenge South Carolina law requiring voters to disclose Social Security numbers Bicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers House and Senate Dems implore McConnell to sign DACA legislation to protect 'Dreamers' MORE (D-Nev.) told party faithful here. "If you can win Nevada, you can win the White House."

The most recent survey, a Suffolk University poll conducted for USA Today, found Biden leading with just 23 percent of the vote -- only two points ahead of the 21 percent who said they were undecided.

Warren took 19 percent. Sanders took 14 percent. Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Calif.) took 4 percent, and Buttigieg finished at just 3 percent of the vote.

Rich Dunn, a Democratic activist who drove up from Carson City to see his favorite candidate, said most of his cohort of retirees like Biden. But Dunn, looking for a new generation, is with Buttigieg.

"He's both smart and intelligent, and those two things don't always go together," Dunn said. "If he became president, we'd be in great shape."