South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he's prepared to deal with President Trump on the debate stage because he has a "familiarity dealing with bullies" during a Thursday interview with the Washington Post's Robert Costa.
"I am gay, I am from Indiana," Buttigieg added, receiving chuckles from the audience, insinuating that voters from his home state are prone to bully LGBT individuals.
The openly gay mayor and former Rhodes Scholar has focused his campaign around themes of unity and generational change as Time magazine describing his campaign as "unlikely, untested, [and] unprecedented." Buttigieg's campaign for the Democrat nomination makes him the first openly gay individual to mount a serious campaign for the White House.
Buttigieg's remarks about the Hoosier state led to a response from a spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence, who the mayor has publicly chastised for his religious beliefs. "Mayor Pete's impression of Hoosiers is very different than mine," Alyssa Farah, press secretary for the Vice President tweeted.
"I've found them to be some of the kindest, most accepting, & welcoming people you'll meet," she added in response to Buttigieg's remarks.
Buttigieg has rapidly risen in the Democrat primary polls trailing only Senator Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.) and Joe Biden in some polls and during his remarks on Thursday expanded on why he believes he can beat President Trump in 2020.
"The challenge in confronting Trump is that there are certain things that you have to respond to, morally, when he lies, you have to correct the lie," Buttigieg said about his potential strategy to debating Trump.
He later added that whoever faces President Trump on the debate stage will have to learn how to "stiff arm him" and focus on the Democrat Party's policy proposals to address issues such as healthcare, paid family leave, and immigration.