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Buttigieg: Trump ‘doesn’t care about any of us,’ but Biden does

As the Democratic National Convention proceeds, the NewsHour will be talking to some prominent members of the party. We start with Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was competing against former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination only a few months ago. Buttigieg joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Biden’s “instinct to heal, rather than to divide.”

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, throughout the week, we are going to be talking to some prominent Democrats, including Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

    And he joins me now.

    Mayor Buttigieg, welcome back to the "NewsHour." It's good to see you.

    You know, it wasn't so long ago that you were out on the campaign trail — and I looked this up — portraying Joe Biden as spouting the same old Washington playbook, recycling old Democratic Party arguments, and reducing Americans in small towns to a punchline.

    So, what's changed?

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    Well, we had an energetic, vigorous campaign among a lot of Democratic candidates, and Joe Biden won. He won decisively.

    And I'm not just backing him because of how important it is to put an end to the Trump era and the cruelty and the division and the incompetence, but, also, I'm looking forward to what it is going to be like in this country under a Biden/Harris administration.

    You have in Joe Biden somebody who believes in bringing people together, someone whose first instinct is to heal, rather than to divide. And that's only become more relevant and the stakes of this election have only become higher since I left the campaign trail some six months ago.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, before they get to office, he has to be elected.

    And we have just been talking about the heartland of this country. What does Joe Biden need to do, Pete Buttigieg, to win over those, frankly, largely white Midwestern voters, like those in your home state of Indiana, who used to have industrial jobs — a lot of them have gone — and went for Donald Trump the last time?

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    Well, I think the most important thing is to communicate with every part of the country.

    It is part of why Milwaukee was chosen as the site for this convention. And while we're not gathering physically, it is going to be important to speak to people in this part of the country, which, by the way, is also a very diverse part of the country, more than it gets credit for.

    But the message is simple, which is: We are not better off than we were four years ago, not by a long shot. Manufacturing was already in a recession even before the pandemic hit.

    You look around a place like Wisconsin or other parts of the Midwest, farmers have been getting killed, dairy farms are closing and going into bankruptcy day after day, because the president of the United States doesn't care. He doesn't care about any of us.

    In addition to all of the policies that need to change, just the simple fact of needing a more competent management in the White House, the simple fact of having a president who actually cares about us, I think, is the biggest change we can make.

    And we have a historic opportunity to cut across some of those old party lines, to reach people who maybe have been in the habit of voting Republican, almost just because, maybe for a generation.

    But, look, if you're a conservative because you believe in decency, if you're a conservative because you believe in fiscal responsibility, if it's — if you're a conservative because you're a person for faith, you know, if you're a conservative because you care about national security, Donald Trump has nothing for you.

    And so this is a great time to bring together progressives, moderates, and an awful lot of what I would like to call future former Republicans to turn the page in this country before it is too late.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I'm asking this question because, even in the polls that are showing Joe Biden with a substantial lead nationally, there are more voters right now who are saying Donald Trump is better at handling the economy.

    There was a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that came out in the last day or so that has President Trump 10 points ahead of Joe Biden when people were asked, who's better at handling this economy?

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    You know, Donald Trump isn't good at much, but one thing he has been very good at is claiming credit for the Obama/Biden economic recovery that he caught the tail end of and managed for about three years not to ruin.

    Now we are where we are. Now, the economic numbers, by some measures, are the worst that they have been since 1876. And there is no sugarcoating that.

    Look, this is about where we're headed as a country. This is about how we're going to not just dig out of this hole, but, build — as the vice president says, build back better.

    And whether we're talking about jobs here in the Industrial Midwest, whether we're talking about issues affecting rural Americans, not just farmers, by the way, but things like the Postal Service, which is disproportionately important to rural America, and under attack by this president, we just have the better message.

    Now it is our job to make sure, through the next 80 or so days, that no one can miss that message, that we do our job, even though we have got to do it in new ways. We can't campaign the way we're used to campaigning. We have got to get that message out to everybody.

    When we do, we will win. And let's remember, we're winning. Donald Trump is losing this election. It doesn't mean it's guaranteed. We have still got to earn it. But, right now, Joe Biden is beating Donald Trump, and with good reason.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And he still has to deal with Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

    You once said that you have to treat — I think words to this effect — you have to treat President Trump almost like the crazy uncle in the closet. You said you can't play his game.

    We know that's not always easy. How would you like to see Joe Biden respond to what — the kinds of things President Trump is out there saying even today?

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    Well, when he does something crazy or designed to get our attention, you deal with it, you put it in its place, and then you go right back to message.

    I mean, for example, Donald Trump tried to revive birtherism in order to distract us. So, it was very important to quickly establish that that was a lie, that it was a racist lie, and then get right back to talking about what he doesn't want us to talk about, which is the economic disaster unfolding around us in this country.

    And I think — I hear a lot of hand-wringing about whether Vice President Biden is out there enough. Again, he's winning, not because he's creating the same kind of arm-waving, dazzling noise that comes out of this president, but because he's got a better message, he's steady, he's consistent.

    And I think steady and consistent is exactly what the American people want and need at a time like this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And last quick question.

    Does the Biden campaign need to worry this week about coming across as too left?

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    Well, right now, the Biden campaign and the Democratic Party are more in line with the American people.

    We have got a big tent. And we're proud of that. I mean, the fact that you have got folks from Bernie Sanders, to Republicans like John Kasich, and everyone in between all unified right now around the urgency of this moment, and, again, not just because of what we're up against, which should be motivation enough, but because of what we have a chance to be for, which is a good leader whose first instinct is to heal, and not to divide.

    That's something you don't have to be a lifelong Democrat to get on board with. As a matter of fact, that's where most Americans already are.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, thank you very much.

    And he will be speaking this week at the Democratic National Convention.

    Thank you.

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    Thank you. Great to be with you.

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