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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 TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE would win in a potential general election match-up against Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly 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 BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force 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 HarrisBiden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Biden's political position is tougher than Trump's 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 SandersClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Inequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift In defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation 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.”