Donald Trump compared Democratic nominee Pete Buttigieg to a gap-toothed cartoon character  when asked if he sees as a serious threat to his 2020 re-election. 

"Alfred E Neuman cannot become president of the United States," Trump said in reference to the boyish cartoon character on the cover of the humour magazine Mad.

The son of Maltese and American parents, Buttigieg, an openly gay candidate, has seen his popularity and media attention soar in recent weeks with analysts saying he could be a rank outsider to get the nomination. 

"We have a young man, Buttigieg. Boot-edge-edge. They say “edge-edge”,’ Trump said mockingly in an interview with Politico.

Earlier in the week, Trump scoffed at the notion that Buttigieg could hold his own in high-stakes international negotiations.

"He's got a great chance, doesn't he? He'll be great representing us against President Xi of China. That'll be great, Trump said sarcastically of Buttigieg.

But Buttigieg came back with his own smarter reply, dinging the 72-year-old president’s age, saying the outdated reference was a “generational thing.”

"I didn’t get the reference. It’s kind of funny, I guess,” said Buttigieg, adding that he was “surprised” Trump wasn’t “spending more time trying to salvage this China deal.”

Buttigieg is a former Rhodes scholar and Navy Reserve intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan. His father, Joseph, a well-known academic, migrated from Malta to the US in the late 1970s.

Read: 'It's been a good trip', last words of acclaimed professor and father to US presidential hopeful



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