Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg arrives during a campaign stop at the Alliant Energy Amphitheater in Dubuque on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg defended his electability and laid out plans to solve trade issues with China to a crowd of about 800 Monday night in Dubuque.

The mayor of South Bend, Ind., said he can top Presidental Donald Trump in next year’s election because the current slate of Republican attacks slide off of him.

“They’re going to talk about socialism, but I cut my teeth in the private sector,” he said in Dubuque after making a stop earlier in the day in Elkader, Iowa. “One of the reasons South Bend turned around was I knew how to engage the private sector and knew how to be pro-worker and pro-business.”

As a U.S. Navy veteran, Buttigieg also challenged the Republican Party on national security.

“If they want to debate national security, I can’t wait because I’ve seen more incoming than a tweet,” he said.

Earlier this month, Trump criticized Buttigieg’s record as mayor, saying, “He’s doing a rotten job running his own city, a lousy job,” according to The Hill.

Last week, the Republican National Committee stated, “With no accomplishments as mayor, you will find him campaigning on an extreme agenda that would institute a government takeover of healthcare, eliminate all fossil fuels and would destroy our booming economy.”

But in Dubuque, Buttiegieg pointed to support that he has garnered on the trail from past Republicans who have attended his events.

“It’s not all about ideology with people,” he said. “Sometimes they’re looking for the kind of leader they want and recognize that right now we have a president who’s betraying his own party’s values, not just our own.”

That is true for Kathie Andersen, of Dubuque, a lifelong Republican, who said she voted against Hillary Clinton more than for Trump in 2016.

“I couldn’t stand Hillary and Bill, but this is worse,” she said at Monday’s event. “I’ve changed. He’s the one who’s caught my attention most, but I hope he isn’t too liberal.”

Andersen said that in addition to preferring Buttigieg’s character to Trump’s, she appreciated his youth.

“Being young and having something different to say is a big part,” she said. “The old crowd has had the chance and not done anything with it — that’s me speaking as a baby boomer.”

Buttigieg frequently talked about topics he said were most important to his generation.

“It’s personal because these financial time bombs we’re setting are going to blow up in my lifetime,” he said. “This is a matter of generational fairness, just like gun violence and climate change.”

He also targeted issues important to Iowa residents, such as Trump’s trade war with China.

He said an Iowa farmer he talked to earlier in the day said he was tired of being asked to “take one for the team.”

“There hasn’t been a strategy,” he said. “There has been an approach. That is to poke them in the eye and see what they do. Well, of course, they poke back.”

Buttigieg said a step in fixing the trade problem with China is turning the tide on China’s influence elsewhere in the world.

Even more locally, Buttigieg spoke to how his health care plan would impact facilities such as Crescent Community Health Center in Dubuque, which he toured before his rally.

“There’s a lot of conversation on the insurance side, our ‘Medicare for all who want it,’” he said. “Less is being said about the importance of providers. There is a provider shortage in parts of our country. Federally qualified health centers like Crescent play a huge role.”

Matt Wright, 24, has lived in Dubuque for two years but he is from Lafayette, Ind. He said he likes Buttigieg for not backing “Medicare for all.”

“It’s important for me that we avoid that,” he said Monday. “I appreciate capitalism and hope that it is still there for my future and my children’s future.”

An Iowa poll conducted by Selzer and Co. for the Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom, the results of which were released Saturday night, showed Buttigieg in fourth place among the likely Democratic caucusgoers surveyed, with 9%. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren garnered 22%, while former Vice President Joe Biden was selected by 20% and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who also was in Dubuque on Monday, received 11%. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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