Karen Pence: Let's face it, attacking my husband is helping Pete Buttigieg gain notoriety

She doesn’t go as far as to say that notoriety is why Buttigieg is attacking Mike Pence, although that’s clearly implied.

But I’ll go that far. I already have, in fact. Buttigieg is manufacturing the perception of a “feud” between him and Pence because it’s to his advantage as a second-tier candidate to be seen as a nemesis of the sitting vice president. It’s also a clever way to blunt any discomfort rank-and-file Democrats might have with him being gay by associating that position with a despised Republican. Only right-wing Christian fanatics who serve Trump, Buttigieg means to suggest, could conceivably disapprove of his orientation. He’s trying to use partisan animosities to overcome any religious or moral objection to him on his own side.

And it’s working like a charm, with a little help from the Democratic Party’s friends in the media.

The smartest aspect of Buttigieg’s one-sided “feud” with Pence is as a branding exercise. He’s getting big coverage lately for two reasons. One is his modest rise in the polls, from nowheresville alongside the likes of Kirsten Gillibrand to a respectable five percent or so. But the other is his emergence as a de facto leader of the Christian left, a sort of “anti-Pence” but also an anti-secularist. That development has earned him some admirers even on the right. “There is a big sense that he, unlike a lot of the Democrats, is actually not ensconced in the belief system that says everyone who disagrees with him is a bad person,” said Ben Shapiro. Right — Buttigieg isn’t a bombthrower, which is a stylistic break from most progressive favorites. But he’s also not ensconced in the secularism that defines the modern left, something that most righties will naturally find encouraging among young lefties even if they disagree with Buttigieg on most policy matters. Conservative anti-Trumpers like Peter Wehner who disdain evangelicals’ political subservience to a character like the president can’t resist admiring him:

The challenge Buttigieg poses to many leaders of the Trump-supporting evangelical world isn’t simply in the realm of public policy; it is in his tone, his countenance, and the way he carries himself.

Buttigieg does not radiate pent-up grievances, cultural resentments, and bitterness. He’s a person of equanimity, a calming voice in a rancorous political culture. That doesn’t mean he’s right on the stands he’s taking, of course, and those things matter. (More about that later.) But I would say that the splenetic, fear-based approach of many evangelical leaders has created an opening for Buttigieg, who is their temperamental antithesis.

Buttigieg’s ongoing attempts to present himself as the anti-Pence are a neon sign advertising his Christian leftism, a potentially fruitful niche in the primary. But Wehner makes a sharp point about him: Buttigieg isn’t demanding a stricter separation between religion and politics to neutralize the Mike Pences of the world. On the contrary, he’s prone to saying things like “Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction.” He’s engaging the religious right on its own terms by seemingly granting the premise that religion should point the way on policy and instead arguing that it’s towards the left, not the right, that religion points. I think this is something even secular progressives appreciate about him. They don’t necessarily want “WWJD?” to be a threshold question in intraparty debates about health care, say, but I’m sure they like the idea of a Democrat battling the likes of Mike Pence, Robert Jeffress, Tony Perkins et al. on their own turf. There’s no greater virtue in an era of pathological negative partisanship than taking the fight to the enemy. Buttigieg is doing it on religious grounds, terrain Democrats rarely feel comfortable fighting on.

Exit question: Is what Karen Pence says here true, that Buttigieg is attacking her husband for his religious beliefs? Seems to me he’s attacking him for wanting to convert his religious beliefs into public policy. Which, again, Buttigieg seems to be just fine with so long as religion produces policy outcomes that match his ideological priorities.