South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg wraps up a campaign bus road trip Tuesday in Iowa that has been focused on touting his "Medicare for All Who Want It" policy across the caucus state. Buttigieg is hoping his more moderate version of "Medicare for All" will differentiate himself from the pack of nearly 20 presidential candidates, telling CBS News' Ed O'Keefe in an exclusive interview that he's hoping to woo undecided Iowa voters through an aggressive ground game.
"You're going to see, in addition to the national conversations that I'm having in places like the Democratic candidate debates, you're going to see me on the ground, here in Iowa, directly making the case to voters," Buttigieg told CBS.
Only one in five likely Democratic Iowa caucus-goers has made up their mind about who to support in the 2020 presidential race. Buttigieg, the 37-year old Afghanistan war vet, Rhodes scholar and small city mayor who is also openly gay, contends that Americans are looking for a different kind of leader than the current commander-in-chief.
"I think people are not only looking not only for a set of policies but for a kind of leader that is going to lead us in a very, very different place than this current president is. And this is my opportunity to show, as well as tell, what kind of leader I would be for the American people," he said.
While nine of ten Democratic voters say health care is "very important" in early contest states according to new CBS News polling, Buttigieg says his plan to make Medicare available for every American is a "better option" than his opponents.
"'Medicare for All Who Want It' means we take a version of Medicare and we make it available for every American. I believe that this will be a better option than any of the private plans out there. I also believe Americans ought to be able to decide for themselves," Buttigieg explained.
He added, "I think that it's going to lead toward everybody, or almost everybody opting into that public plan, but you're not required to. So the important thing to me is not whether or not the government's the main insurer. The important thing to me is that everybody get care."
Asked if the Buttigieg plan would mean a tax increase for middle class Americans, the Democrat said the health care plan would be funded by raising taxes for the top 2 percent of earners. He conceded, however, that the nation's tax code needs to be fairer.
"There are corporations and very wealthy Americans who should be paying their fair share, and we're going to adjust that, not just in order to fund our healthcare plan, but in order to fund the needs of this country. It's not punitive. It's not unreasonable, it's just what we need in order to make sure that we can move forward as a country," he said.
While Buttigieg is still ranked among the top-tier candidates, landing fourth in the latest Iowa polling, the gravity of running such an historic campaign is not lost on the candidate. Buttigieg says that the nation is "definitely ready" for Chasten, his husband of just over a year, to become "First Gentleman."