Buttigieg talks policies, dismisses polls, during Nevada campaign stop

Pete Buttigieg
Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg during a campaign rally at Silverado High School. (Photo: April Corbin Girnus)

Pete Buttigieg wants to reach out to progressives, moderates and “future former Republicans.”

At a rally at Silverado High School on Saturday, the presidential hopeful’s campaign emphasized this point right away by having former state Sen. Patricia Farley introduce the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Farley was elected to the Nevada Senate as a Republican in 2014 and served two years before switching her affiliation to non-partisan in 2016 and caucusing with the Democrats in 2017.

On her switch, Farley told the crowd: “It became clear to me that the Republican party that I grew up in was more concerned … with the concentrating of power than passing policies to improve Nevadans’ lives…. That agenda did not match the reasons I ran, or the changes I want to see in our state.”

Farley went on to endorse Buttigieg, calling him “the best role model” for her daughters.

Like fellow presidential hopefuls former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Buttigieg has campaigned on the promise of unifying a divided country through moderate policies and reaching across the aisle. All three candidates have dismissed Medicare For All, a concept championed by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Instead, Buttigieg is pushing a public option, pitched as “Medicare For All Who Want It.” It’s a policy position he boasted earlier in the day during an event with the Culinary Union, whose hefty political power, quality health insurance and suspicion of Medicare for All have been a focus of media coverage of Nevada’s caucus.

And he stressed it again during his public rally.

“Make sure every American can access a quality public plan but trust you to decide whether you want it,” he said, “because if you’d rather be on the plan your union negotiated, that’s fine by me.”

Buttigieg later spoke about lowering the cost of prescription drugs, saying his plan calls for setting an out-of-pocket monthly cap of $200 for people on Medicare and $250 for everyone else. He also vowed his administration would “enforce against any company that raises the prices of their drugs faster than inflation for no reason other than because they can.”

After the event, Buttigieg shrugged off questions from media regarding poll numbers from late last week that suggest he may have peaked as a presidential candidate. The most recent of these, a Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll in Iowa, shows the former mayor dropping from first place to third — behind Sanders and Warren — in that key early caucus state.

Meanwhile, the most recent poll from Nevada shows Buttigieg in fifth place — behind Sanders, Warren, Biden and billionaire businessman Tom Steyer. That poll, from FoxNews, had Buttigieg polling at 6 percent.

A third poll, by Washington Post/Ipsos, shows Buttigieg polling nationally at 2 percent among Black voters overall and only 3 percent among Black voters who are familiar with him.

“We’re not too caught up in the changes from one poll to the next,” said Buttigieg when asked about the dramatic nine-point drop in Iowa. “What we do know is that we’re in a very strong position. There’s no campaign I would trade with.”

He opted not to speculate on whether a strong showing in Iowa is necessary to do well in Nevada, saying the analysts could decide that. He also largely sidestepped a question about whether he should be concerned about polling so low with black voters, saying “the biggest thing” from that poll was that voters want someone who can defeat President Trump.

“We need to demonstrate that,” he said. “One of the first chances we’ll get to do that will be in Iowa.”

According to tweets from reporters, hours after his public rally at Silverado High School, Buttigieg made an appearance at a Go Urban Las Vegas event celebrating Black achievements.

This weekend marked Buttigieg’s ninth trip to Nevada.

Nevada’s caucus is scheduled for Feb. 22 with early caucus voting options beginning a week prior.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.