The South Bend, Ind., mayor has tangled with Sens. Warren and Sanders over their health-care and free-college plans, proposing smaller, more-targeted options. Yet, he has so far proposed $6.9 trillion in new government spending. That is much less than his more progressive rivals—but double that of former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading centrist in the race, and triple the total of 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Pete is working with the same color palette as Sanders and Warren, though they might be painting in brighter hues,” says Felicia Wong, president of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank. “When he talks about curbing corporate power, he is getting to the new thinking.”
Unlike the other leading Democratic presidential candidates, the 37-year-old Rhodes scholar has never held a seat in Congress. The lack of a national track record is to some a sign he lacks experience, but it also leaves him freer to define himself.
And in doing so, Mr. Buttigieg sidesteps ideological labels. Asked whether Democrats are veering into socialism, he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in April that he believes in “democratic capitalism,” adding that “when capitalism comes into tension with democracy…democracy is more important.”