Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday, a day after the New Hampshire primary, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg told voters, "Nevada is a good example of a place where there is … there are a lot of union workers who sometimes gave concessions on wages in order to get excellent plans.” He explained, “I’m thinking about culinary workers, for example, a lot of folks across the AFL-CIO who are prioritizing health care as an issue and they are not interested in Senator Sanders’s vision of eliminating all private plans because they actually got and fought for good health-care coverage that they have right now.”

He continued, “If the choice is between Senator Sanders telling them they’re going to have to give that up, and me saying that we can enhance and increase choice without asking them to sacrifice what they have worked so hard for, I think that is a very good debate for us to have and I’m looking forward to having that debate.”

He is out with a new ad to drive home this message:

In other words, the most powerful union in Nevada has negotiated excellent health-care benefits in collective bargaining and do not necessarily want to be forced to trade that in for Medicare-for-all — whatever that might turn out to be. Buttigieg’s message is both a traditional plea to union workers, but is also a sign to independents, former Republicans and pragmatic Democrats that he understands from a policy and political perspective that compulsory centralization of significant parts of our economy is a bad idea.

Buttigieg, who finished second in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, would also be wise to focus on the administration’s litigation seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. Sanders’s supporters would have the country put up a high-risk candidate against President Trump at a time when the ACA could be on the chopping block with no foreseeable replacement. As a matter of messaging against both Trump and the uber-progressive, burn-it-down wing of the Democratic Party, Buttigieg can make crystal clear: This is no time to roll the dice with a socialist nominee who would distract from the real issue — Trump’s effort to take away health care.

Even if Sanders were to somehow win in November, the chances of him passing Medicare-for-all are slim to none. Buttigieg told “Morning Joe" that Sanders has "$25 trillion of unexplained gap, even after you raise middle-class taxes” to fund his fantasy plan. Buttigieg argued, “I don’t think that even progressives really want to be in a world where we can’t keep our promises. We’ve had enough broken promises in this country. There’s a better way to get these things done — to confront climate, deliver health care, empower workers, ensure corporations and the wealthy are paying their fair share. Let’s do it in a way that can actually unify, not polarize this country.”

As Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) likes to point out, Medicare-for-all is never happening. Nominating someone who does not grasp this and would blow a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure and expand the ACA is not a bold stroke for progressivism. It is a recipe for defeat and disaster.

Buttigieg has doubled his staff in Nevada to 100 people. With his sharpened health-care message, he may be able to stop Sanders in his tracks while striking a blow for pragmatic reform. That would be a step forward to finding a candidate to beat Trump.

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