It Would Be a 'Real Mistake' for Kamala Harris to Underestimate Mike Pence's Debating Skills, Says Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg, who is reportedly helping Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris prepare for Wednesday's upcoming debate, said it would be "a real mistake to underestimate" the skills of her Republican rival.

Buttigieg discussed Vice President Mike Pence's past debate approaches, and what Harris might expect from him this week, during an interview with Indianapolis Monthly, published on Sunday. Harris and Pence will participate in this year's vice presidential debate during an in-person event set to take place in Salt Lake City on Wednesday evening.

"He was very effective in 2016," Buttigieg said in the interview, responding to a question from reporter Adam Wren about whether Pence's expertise as a debater were "underrated in recent weeks." The former Democratic presidential candidate and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana—where Pence served as governor from 2013 until President Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration—replied directly in the affirmative before supporting his answer with additional comments.

"And also in his debates, if you look in 2012, when he was running for governor, it would be a real mistake to underestimate. Largely because he doesn't seem to have any qualms about defending what many of us would consider indefensible, even if it flies in the face of his own professed values," Buttigieg explained, referencing Pence, in his comments to Indianapolis Monthly.

"I think it's really important for us to have a sense of this person who's currently the Vice President and who's obviously a central figure in the Trump administration and aims to be a central figure in the future of the Republican Party," he continued. "And I have fundamental differences of worldview from him and also think there may be some fundamental contradictions between his worldview and this White House that he's decided to become part of."

Although Buttigieg could not officially comment on "campaign processes," reports published prior to last week's first presidential debate said he is assisting Harris' debate preparations by assuming Pence's role during mock sessions. After having "observed" and "engaged with" Pence while serving as South Bend's mayor, Buttigieg told Indianapolis Monthly he does what he can "to try to translate or explain" his understanding of the vice president to Democrats who are "trying to respond to him."

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg announces the end of his 2020 presidential campaign during a speech in South Bend, Indiana, on March 1. Buttigieg, a Democrat and South Bend's former mayor, said Vice President Mike Pence's debate skills should not be underestimated during a recent interview. Scott Olson/Getty

Buttigieg, who is openly gay, voiced criticisms of Pence publicly in the past. The vice president's positions on issues impacting LGBTQ people, and lengthy history of anti-LGBTQ statements, has drawn continued backlash throughout his time as an elected official.

Newsweek reached out to Buttigieg for additional comments but did not receive a reply in time for publication.