CHICAGO (AP) — Sen. Amy Klobuchar says she and other top female presidential candidates wouldn't be on the debate stage if they had the same experience as Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The Minnesota Democrat said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that she believes the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is qualified but that she's the better candidate.
"I'm the one from the Midwest that has actually won in a statewide race over and over again," the three-term senator said, adding that she can bring in voters like those in Kentucky and Virginia who supported Democrats in last week's election. "Those are the kind of voters I have won. And that's not true of Mayor Pete. That's just a fact."
Buttigieg has been one of the surprises of the Democratic presidential primary, rising from an unknown to a top candidate who has raised more money than almost all his rivals.
He is a Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar and military veteran who is openly gay and married to his husband. He's won over voters who say that he's intelligent and that they appreciate his calm demeanor, his oratory skills and his message of generational change.
Buttigieg has run for statewide office once, in 2010, when he was the Democratic nominee for treasurer in the red state of Indiana. He lost to the Republican by more than 400,000 votes, winning about 38%.
He easily won his second term as mayor of South Bend, a community of about 100,000 people, with just over 8,500 ballots cast for him.
Klobuchar has never lost a campaign, dating back to her bid to be the top prosecutor of Minnesota's largest county and her first Senate race in 2006, when she became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota. She won her third term last year with 60% of the vote in Minnesota, which went for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 but which Republican Donald Trump hopes to make a play for in 2020.
Buttigieg said performance in previous elections may not be the best test of a candidate.
"If the measure of whether somebody can become president is how many votes they've gotten in previous elections, we wouldn't be here. We're living under the Donald Trump presidency right now," he said over the weekend. "I also think that it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a Washington outsider who's also a war veteran from the industrial Midwest, in order to focus through a lot of the nonsense that this president has been throwing up and surrounding himself with."
He also has faced bias over his sexual orientation, which some people see as a barrier to his being elected, particularly among African American voters. Buttigieg has encountered anti-gay protesters at stops on the campaign trail.
The other female candidates who have met the Democratic National Committee qualifications for at least one debate are Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, author Marianne Willliamson and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who dropped out of the race in August.
During the CNN interview, Klobuchar focus on the candidacies of Warren, Harris and herself.
"Do I think that we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience that (Buttigieg) had? No, I don't. Maybe we're held to a different standard."