Buttigieg: "Very difficult" to see a Socialist winning a national election

Contrast this approach Joe Biden’s rah-rah rhetoric on Democratic contenders. Biden might not see existential threats from either self-professed socialists or self-funding oligarchs winning the Democratic nomination, but Pete Buttigieg is less sanguine about those prospects. He tiptoes around Bernie’s socialist “label,” as Mayor Pete puts it, but focuses on policy instead.

Buttigieg tells Today host Savannah Guthrie that Sanders’ policy proposals have “a $25 trillion hole in how to pay for them,” and that Democrats need to reclaim deficit spending as part of their agenda. Does that come before or after Medicare for All?

“I think it would be very difficult, and it’s not just because of the labels,” Buttigieg told “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, referring to Sanders’ embrace of democratic socialism. “It’s because of the approach.”

He added, “When you look at what he’s proposing in terms of the budget, all the things he’s put forward and how to pay for them, there’s a $25 trillion hole in how to pay for everything he’s put forward.”

Sanders has proposed a wide range of policies that would reshape nearly every aspect of American economic life, from health care to education to the environment. He has proposed taxing Wall Street speculation as a way to pay for his plans. As he vies for re-election, Trump has repeatedly branded Democrats as out-of-touch socialists who would ruin the economy.

It’s not the approach, it’s the label that Buttigieg finds troubling. Buttigieg is trying to carve out space in the moderate lane now that the race is becoming Sanders v Everyone Else,. However, as Allahpundit wrote yesterday, he started off firmly in the progressive lane when the race appeared to be Biden vs Everyone Else. If he supplants Sanders, the Bernie Bros will not sign up for an austerity candidate, no matter how little they might resent a second loss in a row.

No, it’s the “socialist” label that has Democrats worried, and for good reason. A new poll out from Gallup today shows the power that socialism still has to repel voters (via Jeff Dunetz):

More than nine in 10 Americans say they would vote for a presidential candidate nominated by their party who happened to be black, Catholic, Hispanic, Jewish or a woman. Such willingness drops to eight in 10 for candidates who are evangelical Christians or are gays or lesbians. Between six and seven in 10 would vote for someone who is under 40 years of age, over 70, a Muslim or an atheist.

Just one group tested — socialists — receives majority opposition. Less than half of Americans, 45%, say they would vote for a socialist for president, while 53% say they would not.

There is a sharp partisan divide on this point, but it’s not in Democrats’ favor. Of all the categories of potential candidates, Republicans only fail to deliver a majority of potential consideration for three: Muslims (42%), atheists (41%), and socialists — at 17%. Republicans are more than twice as likely to consider the first two than the third. Among independents, socialists are the only category to get less than 68% to consider them — all the way down to 45%. However, among Democrats, more say they’d consider a socialist (76%) than an atheist (69%) or someone over the age of 70 (66%).

Other Democrats can dodge this issue by claiming Republicans are exaggerating what it means to be socialist. That’s tougher to do when your nominee is a crank who has declared himself a socialist for decades, since before he honeymooned in the Soviet Union back in the day and praised its public transportation system. When Buttigieg and others try to say it’s not the label, they’re simply not telling the truth about what’s scaring them in this cycle. That 53% number in Gallup will haunt them all the way to the convention.