President Donald Trump traveled to Pete Buttigieg territory in Indiana on Friday but never once mentioned the South Bend mayor who hopes to unseat him in next year's election.
He did take a swipe at another political rival: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Trump, making his first trip to the Hoosier State since Buttigieg formally entered the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, used much of his speech before the National Rifle Association to cast Democrats as socialists who will undo the progress he said he has made during his first two years in office.
Trump took a swing at Sanders, who said earlier this week he thinks every U.S. citizen, even the convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, should be allowed to vote in American elections.
“Let the Boston bomber vote?” Trump asked the crowd. “I don’t think so.”
Trump said when Sanders made the remarks at a CNN town hall on Monday, “I said well that’s the end of his campaign. But everyone agreed with him. Or most of them,” referring to other Democrats.
Vice President Mike Pence, who introduced Trump at the NRA meeting, also slammed Sanders’ remarks and noted that former Vice President Joe Biden cast the upcoming election as “a battle for the soul of this nation” in a video announcing his own candidacy for the Democratic nomination in 2020.
“For once, I agree with him — but not for the reason he thinks,” Pence said. “We are in a battle. We're in a battle for the soul of America, but it's a battle between liberty and tyranny.”
Republicans often point to progressives such as Sanders and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to bolster their case that Democrats are out of the mainstream.
The attacks are sure-fire applause lines at events like the NRA meeting and will likely escalate as next year’s presidential contest draws near.
While Trump never mentioned Buttigieg in Indiana, he did make his first public reference to the South Bend mayor in a SiriusXM interview last week, referring to him as “the mayor of Indiana" when sizing up the Democratic field and speculating on which candidate he might face next year.
“It could be the mayor of Indiana,” Trump said of Buttigieg, who has been rising in the polls in the crowded field of Democratic 2020 contenders. “I think I’d like running against him, too.”
Buttigieg, who repeatedly says the 2020 election should not be about Trump, recently compared him to a “Chinese finger trap”.
“You know, the harder you pull, the more you get stuck,” he said in Iowa last week.
If Democrats talk only about Trump, then voters feel like nobody is talking about them, he’s said – in part a criticism of how his party handled the 2016 election.
But Buttigieg has gotten considerable attention for one of his zingers, which went after both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. In a CNN town hall in March, an appearance credited with starting his meteoric rise, Buttigieg rhetorically asked how Pence allowed himself “to become the cheerleader for the porn star presidency.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump's visits Buttigieg country for speech at NRA convention but singles out only Bernie Sanders