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Buttigieg: Don't Get Bogged Down       04/17 06:33

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg 
says President Donald Trump is "kind of like a Chinese finger trap --- you 
know, the harder you pull, the more you get stuck" and warns that Democrats 
shouldn't get bogged down in trying to "knock him flat with some zinger."

   In Iowa for the first time since officially launching his campaign , 
Buttigieg discussed how to defeat Trump after drawing an audience of more than 
1,600 people at a Des Moines rally Tuesday night.

   "We've got to acknowledge --- without giving an inch on the racism or 
xenophobia that played a role in that campaign --- we've got to also pay 
attention to the things that make people susceptible to that message and make 
sure we're addressing them," said the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

   The rally was one of the biggest campaign events yet for a 2020 contender in 
the Des Moines area, a particularly notable feat for a candidate who just over 
a month ago was barely registering in the polls. Buttigieg's main task now is 
turning grassroots energy into a real, sustainable movement.

   In an interview with The Associated Press, Buttigieg said Iowa --- its 
caucuses produce the first votes of the presidential nominating season --- 
"will be really central to our strategy."

   "There's a political style here that rhymes a lot with my home territory in 
Indiana," he said. "I think that the mechanics of a caucus really favor a style 
that involves a lot of engagement, which is how I like to practice politics ... 
of course there's a simple logistical advantage of it being the one early state 
that's within driving distance of my home."

   Asked whether Trump leaned on racial animus to win the White House, 
Buttigieg called the president out for playing "white guy identity politics."

   "By far the political movement that is most based on identity politics is 
Trumpism. It's based on white guy identity politics. It uses race to divide the 
working and middle class," he told the AP. "There are a lot of strategies to 
blame problems on people who look different or are of a different faith or even 
of a different sexuality or gender identity. ... It's a cynical political 
strategy that works in the short term but winds up weakening the whole country 
in the long term."

   Buttigieg has argued that he's uniquely positioned to take on Trump because 
he can appeal to the white working class voters who left the Democratic Party 
for the Republican. But in recent days, he's acknowledged he needs to address 
the lack of racial diversity among supporters at his events.

   In the AP interview, Buttigieg said he plans to make sure that "our 
organization and our substance reflect our commitment to diversity." He said 
he'll do that by hiring a diverse staff and by addressing a range of policies 
that affect minorities, including but not limited to criminal justice reform, 
education, homeownership and entrepreneurship.

   "I think any white candidate needs to show a level of consciousness around 
issues like white privilege," he said. But when asked whether he had 
experienced white privilege, he said that "part of privilege is not being very 
conscious of it, right?"

   He added: "You're much more conscious when you're at a disadvantage than ... 
when you are on the beneficial side of a bias. But there's no question that 
that's a factor that has impacted people in many different ways. And we need to 
be as alive to it as possible."

   Buttigieg said that to be able to create a diverse coalition without 
alienating white working-class voters, issues of racial justice need to be 
discussed in a unifying way.

   "I mean being pro-racial justice should not be skin off the back of any 
white voter," he said. "I think there's certainly an environment where 
sometimes these ideas are pitted against each other, where it's suggested, for 
example, that connecting with white working-class voters somehow means that you 
have to walk away somehow from our commitment to racial justice --- but our 
commitment to racial justice is part of the bedrock of the moral authority of 
the Democratic Party."

   The South Bend mayor has surged from a relatively unknown candidate in the 
field to a media darling who's gained support in nationwide polling and posted 
a stronger-than-expected fundraising number in the first quarter. He's drawn 
attention for his plainspoken style, and the historic nature of his candidacy, 
as the first openly gay contender in a same-sex marriage.

   During the Des Moines rally, an audience member asked what he should tell 
his friends who say America isn't ready for a gay president. Buttigieg replied, 
"Tell your friends I said 'hi.'"

   The impact of his personal life on the campaign was on striking display at 
both of his Iowa events Tuesday. During a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge, 
after Buttigieg spoke about the need for marriage equality, a protester stood 
up and shouted, "You betray your baptism!" He was escorted out.

   Buttigieg joked to the crowd, "Coffee after church gets a little rowdy 
sometimes," then added: "We're so dug-in, in such passionate ways, and I 
respect that, too. That gentleman believes that what he is doing is in line 
with the will of the creator. I'd do it differently. We ought to be able to do 
it differently."

   In Des Moines, another protester shouted "Sodom and Gomorrah!" The crowd 
drowned him out with chants of "Pete! Pete! Pete!"

   Asked by the AP how he would win over a protester like the one in Fort Dodge 
if he could sit down with him, Buttigieg said, "I'm not sure he would want to 
sit down with me," but that he hoped others who have concerns about his 
candidacy would come to his events and ask a question, "so we could have a 
respectful exchange."

   "There are a lot of positions, there's a wide range, with fringes, in our 
politics. That's part of how politics works, and you shouldn't be in this if 
you aren't prepared to deal with that," he said.

   The turnout at the Des Moines event was unexpected, according to Polk County 
Democratic Party Chair Sean Bagniewski, who said Buttigieg's team had predicted 
at most 200 people would show up. The campaign didn't have any volunteers to 
take down information for enthusiastic supporters who wanted to be a part of 
the campaign.

   "It's a very narrow window to capture momentum and energy and attention, and 
if you miss the opportunity to match your staff and energy with the moment, you 
can miss your chance," Bagniewski said.


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