Buttigieg: Sanders would have difficulty defeating Trump because of 'labels' and his 'approach'

As he runs for re-election, Trump has repeatedly branded Democrats as out-of-touch socialists who would ruin the economy.

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By Dartunorro Clark

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told NBC on Tuesday that the sweeping progressive policies championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders would be the Vermont independent's weak spot in a potential match-up against President Donald Trump in November.

"I think it would be very difficult, and it's not just because of the labels," Buttigieg told "Today" co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, referring to Sanders' embrace of democratic socialism. "It's because of the approach."

He added, "When you look at what he's proposing in terms of the budget, all the things he’s put forward and how to pay for them, there’s a $25 trillion hole in how to pay for everything he’s put forward."

Sanders has proposed a wide range of policies that would reshape nearly every aspect of American economic life, from health care to education to the environment. He has proposed taxing Wall Street speculation as a way to pay for his plans. As he vies for re-election, Trump has repeatedly branded Democrats as out-of-touch socialists who would ruin the economy.

Buttigieg's remarks come on the heels of the Iowa Democratic Party giving Buttigieg the largest delegate count, 14, based on the results of last week's protracted caucuses, which were mired by a data breakdown. Sanders followed closely, receiving 12.

The former mayor has been trying to use the momentum from Iowa to boost his campaign's chances in New Hampshire, but has been clobbered by attacks from former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., over his experience and newcomer status.

Buttigieg also said the attacks of Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that he is in the pocket of billionaire campaign donors is "just wrong" and that Democrats need a big tent if they plan to win back the White House.

When asked if Trump fears him, since the president has not attacked him as much as other Democratic rivals, Buttigieg said, "I don't think he can figure out what to do with me."

Buttigieg and Sanders sit atop the newest polls of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. Sanders secured 29 percent in the newest results from CNN and the University of New Hampshire's three-day tracking poll, released Monday, with Buttigieg trailing at 22 percent, a margin within the poll's plus-or-minus 5.1 percent margin of error.