Next week’s Democratic presidential debate in Houston may be one of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s last big chances to draw a distinction between himself and the more outwardly progressive candidates in the race. And he previewed how he might go about doing that on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Thursday night.
As Colbert laid it out during their interview, there is now a solid top tier of three—Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders—while Buttigieg, along with Kamala Harris, is on a second tier below them. “Some are saying it’s Tier 1B, just for the record,” Buttigieg joked.
“How do you cut into it?” Colbert asked him. “In what ways do you think you can make an impression in a debate? What’s your strategy?”
“Now that it’s starting to winnow down, people are starting to look for the contrasts,” Buttigieg replied. “And it will be important for me to convey how I’m different than the others. I like the others, I appreciate the others but I’m not like the others.” He said it’s “not just a matter of style,” but a “matter of approach.”
“It’s why I'm not making some of the promises that some of the candidates to my left are,” the South Bend mayor said, pointedly. “I share the goals and believe that we can do it in a way that will bring Americans together.”
As an example, Buttigieg pointed to his “Medicare for All Who Want It” plan, which does not go as far as the plans that Warren and Sanders have put forward. “I agree we should have universal health care and I agree that we should have a public alternative and that the public alternative will be better,” he said. “But I think it's important to have Americans to choose that and vote with their feet instead of ordering a hundred million Americans to switch and hoping it works out.”
“So these are some of the contrasts that I think will be important to surface in the debate,” he said.