by Rob Crilly · February 15, 2020
The Trump campaign is warning union workers they risk losing their health plans if Pete Buttigieg becomes president, seeking to drive a wedge between the high-flying former mayor and a key bloc of Democratic primary voters.
The messaging appears part of a plan to target front-runners, sow discord, and elongate a fractious nomination process.
“The Democrats are doing it to themselves,” said a person close to the Trump campaign, “but it doesn’t hurt if we do a little bit of trolling as well.”
Talking points emailed to supporters in the early-primary state of Nevada question Buttigieg’s claims that his healthcare policy would not kill off union workers’ insurance plans. The issue has erupted in the state during the past week as the powerful culinary union criticized Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan as an attack on their hard-won insurance plan.
The Trump messaging paints Buttigieg, who has portrayed himself as the pragmatic, moderate choice for Democratic voters following strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, as an extremist on health.
“WARNING: If Pete Buttigieg Gets His Way, Nevada Union Workers Will Lose Their Health Plans,” reads the email sent to supporters. “Buttigieg secretly supports Medicare for All, and his pollster-approved version is just as dangerous.”
It points out that he has repeatedly offered his plan as a step on the road to a Sanders-style program.
“I’ve been more specific than many in offering a pathway to get to a ‘Medicare for all,’” Buttigieg said last April.
Buttigieg has branded his plan as “Medicare for all who want it” and said on Wednesday that he wanted to protect the 14 million union members who had fought for employer-provided benefits.
Sanders’s Medicare for All plan would exclude private insurers from all but a tiny part of the market.
The issue could be one of the crucial factors in Nevada’s Feb. 22 caucus. The influential culinary union, which represents 60,000 workers, including those in the gaming and hotel industries, is feuding with Sanders and his supporters over plans it says would end a system of care it has worked to build over eight decades.
The union has yet to endorse a specific candidate but said that any candidate who supports a “Medicare for all” proposal would deliver four more years of Trump.
A poll published on Monday places Buttigieg in only fifth place, far behind Sanders, among likely Nevada Democratic caucusgoers. However, his strong showings in New Hampshire and Iowa have handed him an early delegate lead and catapulted him into a position to be the choice for Democrats who fear Sanders is too left-wing to win a general election.
Attacking him now is a way to avoid any one candidate from breaking out and clarifying the muddled Democratic picture, according to Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran political strategist, who said the attacks were all about shaping the eventual contest in November.
“They want to boost Republican turnout wherever they can to protect the base … even in places where he has no contest,” he said.
“The second dynamic, and why they are going after Buttigieg, is to create as much chaos among Democrats as possible and to create a sense of disunity. It’s a very important part of the strategy and is designed to make the Democrats look even more silly than they look today.”
Before Buttigieg’s strong showing, Trump and his allies frequently ridiculed the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, stumbling over his name or ridiculing his height. At other times, they have talked up Sanders’s chances and complained that the Democratic Party was rigging the contest against him as part of an effort to secure a hard-line socialist opponent.
Washington Examiner · by Rob Crilly · February 15, 2020