Democrats feel whiplash as Buttigieg veers from left lane to the middle

Pete Buttigieg’s claim to a share of the “moderate” lane occupied by Joe Biden in the primary has some fellow Democrats seeing opportunism knocking.

“Buttigieg can flip-flop on progressive litmus tests like Medicare for All, poll-test every stance, and posture as a heartland moderate all he wants, but at the end of the day, the sum total of his support is — and will remain — a bunch of latte-sipping, New Yorker-reading, Volvo-driving, coastal liberals,” an aide to a rival campaign said.

Even before he announced his presidential run in April, the South Bend, Indiana mayor drew headlines by musing that the next Democratic president should consider adding more justices to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is, Buttigieg said, “sliding toward being viewed as a nakedly political institution. I’m for us contemplating whatever policy options will allow that to be possible.”

In response, a number of his competitors said they’d consider Buttigieg’s idea — which liberal groups had been lobbying for — causing much of the primary debate around the court to move markedly to the left.

Buttigieg’s position, and much of the 2020 field’s agreement brought outrage from a number of legal scholars who worried about further politicizing the Court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went as far as writing a letter to the Supreme Court pledging to stop Democrats from “packing” the institution.

Yet as Biden’s third White House run begins to flounder with weak fundraising numbers and a number of polls showing him losing early primary contests, Buttigieg has begun positioning himself as the moderate alternative to the former vice president.

“I think that at some point, not too long ago, he and his people took a look at the dynamics of this race and concluded that when all is said and done there’s gonna be two candidates left standing,” Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said, adding that his massive campaign war chest means Buttigieg can sustain his run far into 2020. “I think they took a look at this thing and said ‘Well, Warren and Sanders have cornered the progressive vote. And on the moderate side, the Biden campaign looks shaky, and we have a much better chance of becoming a moderate darling than a progressive darling.’”

In September, Buttigieg attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on the issue of healthcare, calling her “evasive” on the details of her “Medicare for All” plan.

A month later, Buttigieg released a TV ad campaign in Iowa called ” Makes More Sense,” which highlighted that Sanders’ and Warren’s healthcare plans would eliminate private insurance, seemingly reversing the position he took in a February 2018 tweet, championing Medicare for All.

“Your signature is to have a plan for everything, except this,” Buttigieg said to Warren in the October debate, after saying the front-runner couldn’t answer a simple “yes-or-no question” on whether the Medicare for All plan would raise taxes on the middle class.

Yet other Democratic campaigns say Buttigieg’s alleged moderate turn is part of his general strategy of remaining vague on policy specifics and relying on his personality and age to win over voters. They say that if you look closely at the policy section of his campaign’s website, he’s far closer to Warren than middle-roader Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Other candidates, such as former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, have called Buttigieg’s latest rhetoric on issues such as gun control “desperate,” an attempt to create contrasts without having a coherent message.

Those on the right point to Buttigieg’s positions on issues such as abortion, where he has repeatedly endorsed the procedure up until birth. Even Democratic strategists told the Washington Examiner that should he win the nomination, many of the positions he’s taken in the primary may be hard to distance himself from.

Members of the GOP already have their messaging on Buttigieg, should he be the nominee: There’s no daylight between him and the ultra-liberal Sanders.

“Pete Buttigieg’s policies are just as radical as the rest of the Democrat field. Buttigieg wants to pack the Supreme Court with liberal judges, supports abortion up until the moment a baby is born, the socialist Green New Deal, and a government takeover of health care,” a Republican National Committee spokesman told the Washington Examiner in a statement. “He also doesn’t hesitate to demonize the brave men and women of ICE or weaponize religion to attack his political opponents.”

The Buttigieg campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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Author: Washington Examiner