Washington (CNN)Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday warned against “going to the extreme” on important election issues a day after he was assailed by his liberal competitors at the CNN/Des Moines Register Democratic debate for being too moderate.
“The point that I’m making to voters, to the American people, is that I’m prepared to be the boldest president we’ve had in a half century when it comes to big reforms, big game-changing improvements and advancements in our access to health care, education and more,” he added. “And that there’s a way to do it. That we can actually unite Americans around rather than chasing for the most extreme idea.”
Buttigieg’s comments reflect some of the most significant fault lines among the party’s top tier candidates. The former mayor has presented a more centrist alternative to the progressive views of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, whose ideas have excited liberal voters but, according to moderates like Buttigieg, risk alienating the rest of the country in a general election.
On Tuesday night, six candidates participated in the last debate before next month’s Iowa caucuses, where voters will cast the first votes of this election cycle.
Buttigieg, who has cast his “Medicare for all who want it” plan as a viable alternative to Warren and Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan, faced an attack during the debate from the Massachusetts senator, who said the “problem” with plans like Buttigieg’s is that while they are an improvement on the staus quo, they are only a “small improvement.”
“It’s just not true that the plan I’m proposing is small,” Buttigieg shot back. “We have to move past the Washington mentality that suggests that the bigness of plans only consists of how many trillions of dollars they put through the Treasury, that the boldness of a plan consists of how many Americans it can alienate.”
In his CNN interview, the former mayor underscored his moderate approach to his health care proposal, which would not force all Americans onto government health coverage — like Warren’s — but would offer a public option for people who choose to enroll.
“On something like health care, I think it’s just more reasonable to do it in a way that doesn’t force Americans off their plans if they don’t want to give those plans up,” he said. “But again, this would also be the biggest, boldest thing we’ve done to American health care in a half century.”