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Pete Buttigieg’s top rival is Bernie Sanders, a past political hero

WASHINGTON – As a high school senior, Pete Buttigieg won a national essay contest extolling Bernie Sanders as a “profile in courage” for daring to call himself a socialist and for being a “powerful force for conciliation and bi-partisanship on Capitol Hill.”

“I like to say, ‘I’m like a hipster,’” Buttigieg said when asked about that essay in a 2017 podcast interview. “I like to say that I knew about (Sanders) before he was cool.”

Now, the two are top rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination with Buttigieg warning the opposite – that the Vermont senator is a divisive figure who insists on ideological purity.

That essay is just one reason the ongoing battle between the top finishers in Iowa and New Hampshire is unusual.

It also pits the oldest candidate, 78, against the youngest, 38.

President Trump weighs in:Calls Bernie Sanders is the Democratic frontrunner

A democratic socialist is competing against a more nuanced progressive Democrat who has long studied ways to reclaim from Republicans terms like freedom and security. 

Sanders is the favorite of the youngest voters. Buttigieg’s earliest fans were the older voters.

Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg holds a "Get Out the Vote" rally in Nashua, New Hampshire Feb. 9, 2020.

Sanders argues he’s the best general election candidate because of the enthusiasm of his base and an appeal to new, younger voters including voters of color. Buttigieg says he’s demonstrated the broadest coalition, including winning the votes of moderates and Republicans turned off by President Donald Trump.

As Trump did in 2016, Sanders is running as an outsider candidate and a combative populist who appeals to those wanting to shake things up. Buttigieg is running as a calming figure who often talks about the need to heal a divided country after Trump’s defeated.

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