Lis Smith said Democrats “need all the resources we can round up.”
Lis Smith, a senior adviser for ascendant candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign, said Wednesday that his rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — seen as a Democratic frontrunner — cannot beat President Donald Trump in the general election, as he represents “divisive politics.”
“We’re not going to beat Donald Trump with more division,” Smith told ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, talking with host and Political Director Rick Klein about Sanders’ possibility of clinching the Democratic nomination. “We need all the resources we can round up. We’re going to need every voter regardless of whether or not they agree with us on 100% of issues.”
With the Iowa and New Hampshire results in hand, Buttigieg currently has the highest number of delegates — 14 from Iowa and nine from New Hampshire. Sanders follows closely behind him with 12 from Iowa and nine from New Hampshire.
Smith told Klein she credits Buttigieg’s success to “building a coalition” with voters.
“He did well with rural and suburban areas,” she said of the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. “He did well with women and men. He did well with college-educated and non-college-educated voters.”
Smith pointed out that while Buttigieg didn’t have a “natural advantage” in the first-in-the-nation states, he still came out with a first-place delegate victory in Iowa and a close second place in New Hampshire, with 98% of precincts reporting, respectively. She said he will continue to work hard to garner support from the communities he’s not favored to win in, including the upcoming Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary.
“He wakes up in the morning and does five morning shows,” she said. “Then we’ll go out and just hit town hall after town hall.”
As an outsider to Washington politics, Smith said that media strategy is what was instrumental in making “Mayor Pete” a nationally-recognized name.
“We knew going into this presidential race that he had no name ID,” she said. “He had no natural fundraising base, but the one thing that we had equal access to was earned media.”
Klein took the conversation back to when Buttigieg joined “Powerhouse Politics” in June 2018, when few people knew who the mayor was, let alone how to pronounce his last name.
When questioned on the jump from being a mayor of a city of around 100,000 to national office, he said the traditional “paths to power in this country have at least been suspended if not done away with forever.”
His lack of experience in Washington put a target on his back during the New Hampshire Democratic debate last week, hosted by ABC News and partners, when Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar went after Buttigieg as a “newcomer.”
“It is easy to go after Washington because that’s a popular thing to do,” Klobuchar said. “[It] makes you look like a cool newcomer. I don’t think that’s what people want right now. We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us.”
She added, “I think having some experience is a good thing.”
Smith argued Buttigieg’s perspective as an outsider will help him to win the Democratic nomination.
“I thought it was important to get him in front of as many people as possible, not just to promote him, but to promote a different future for the Democratic Party,” she said. “One that wasn’t rooted in the same old, same old personalities in Washington, who sort of seemed like carbon copies of each other.”
Smith is no stranger to politics herself. She worked on former President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and on former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program that posts every Wednesday, and includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Powerhouse Politics podcast is hosted by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.