GOP chairwoman: Buttigieg is a 'progressive liberal in moderate clothing'

GOP chairwoman: Buttigieg is a 'progressive liberal in moderate clothing'
© Greg Nash

Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel predicted on Thursday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE would win in a potential general election match-up against Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden: Buttigieg 'doesn't have significant black support even in his own city' Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades Biden rallies with John Kerry in early primary states MORE, dismissing the South Bend, Ind., mayor as a progressive Democrat lacking in experience.

McDaniel acknowledged while speaking with reporters that Buttigieg’s political stock is on the rise after stumbles by other top-tier Democratic presidential hopefuls like former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Buttigieg 'doesn't have significant black support even in his own city' Biden: 'I'd add' Warren to my list of potential VP picks How can top Democrats run the economy with no business skill? MORE. However, she maintained that Trump would win “big” if Buttigieg emerges as the eventual Democratic nominee, pointing to his past embrace of progressive policy prescriptions.

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“Pete is a progressive liberal in moderate clothing,” McDaniel said at a breakfast with members of the media hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “He is somebody who raised his hand to give health care to illegal immigrants. He is somebody who has said he wants to stack the Supreme Court up to 15 judges.” 

“This is not somebody who is a moderate,” she continued. “Just because he’s from South Bend, Ind., doesn’t make him that.” 

Buttigieg, a 37-year-old newcomer in the realm of national politics, has emerged as a leading candidate for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination since entering the race in January as a relatively unknown figure outside Democratic circles.

In recent weeks, he has surged in public polls in early primary and caucus states like Iowa, even taking first place in the Hawkeye State's landmark Des Moines Register–CNN–Mediacom survey last week. At the same time, he has outperformed many of his more well-known rivals in fundraising, including Biden and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSunday shows — Nadler: A jury would convict Trump in 'three minutes flat' Booker on Harris dropping out: 'Iowa voters should have the right to choose' Booker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race MORE (D-Calif.).

At the end of the third fundraising quarter, Buttigieg reported having roughly $23.4 million in cash on hand, a total surpassed only by two other candidates: Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHow can top Democrats run the economy with no business skill? Biden rallies with John Kerry in early primary states Buttigieg campaign says 2000 people attended Iowa rally MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden: 'I'd add' Warren to my list of potential VP picks Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades How can top Democrats run the economy with no business skill? MORE (D-Mass.).

While the Midwest mayor has drawn more support in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, he has struggled to gain the same level of momentum in bigger states with more-diverse electorates, like South Carolina.

A Quinnipiac University survey released earlier this week showed him polling in fourth place behind Biden, Warren and Sanders in South Carolina. That same poll showed him registering no support among black voters, who make up more than half of the state’s Democratic electorate.

Buttigieg has for months sought to cast himself as a younger alternative to Biden in a bid to win over moderate voters in the presidential race. But McDaniel said that his willingness to stake out liberal positions on issues like immigration and the judiciary early on in his campaign undermined his credentials as a moderate.

What’s more, she argued, Buttigieg’s lack of experience would cause him to falter in a possible matchup against Trump in 2020.

“I think the president wins against Pete Buttigieg,” she said. “I think he wins big. He doesn’t have any foreign policy experience, he has not been successful ... he hasn’t, as an executive, had the task of sending people to war.”

“I just don’t think he’s going to be a strong candidate,” she added. “But we’ll see.”