South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemingly took shots at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) during a speaking event in New Hampshire this weekend, saying his supporters back him for similar reasons people voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
Buttigieg's remarks came during a question about Buttigieg's 2000 prize-winning "Profiles in Courage" essay, in which the then-high schooler praised Sanders for his bipartisan efforts in Congress. But now, Buttigieg says Sanders inspires in his supporters the same bitterness about economic stagnation which Buttigieg believes motivated the same voters to propel Trump to the presidency.
"I think the sense of anger and disaffection that comes from seeing that the numbers are fine, like, unemployment is low, like you said, GDP is growing," Buttigieg told his crowd over the weekend, "and yet a lot of neighborhoods and families are living like this recovery never even happened. They are stuck."
Buttigieg added that he believes both Sanders and Trump represent the radical ends of the left-wing and the right-wing factions of American politics.
"It just kind of turns you against the system in general, and then you’re more likely to want to vote to blow up the system," he said. "Which could lead you to somebody like Bernie, and it could lead you to somebody like Trump. That's how we got where we are."
Buttigieg's criticism of Sanders generated media attention, with CNN’s Inside Politics host John King playing it Sunday and saying "this race, so far, has been relatively polite," before observing that Buttigieg was "kind of taking a shot at Bernie Sanders."
Despite his criticism of Sanders's tone, Buttigieg likened himself to the Democratic front runner, also saying that his own platform is only "slightly different" from that of Sanders, but also adding, "I'm obviously a very different messenger."
Sanders has been consistently first among declared candidates in polls of the 2020 Democratic field, although he has also consistently trailed former Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon.