Pete Buttigieg emerged as a major target, while Amy Klobuchar was earning high marks Friday night for a strong debate showing as seven Democrats took the stage in Manchester, New Hampshire. Specifically, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, and Tom Steyer participated. Highlights follow, but also read about applause for two non-candidates and Sanders' response to Hillary Clinton's criticism.
- Biden not hopeful: Right off the bat, Biden lowered expectations for himself in the state's primary next week. "I took a hit in Iowa and I’ll probably take a hit here,” he said at the start of the debate, reports CNN.
- Zinging Pete: Klobuchar ("one of the main aggressors of the night," per Politico) went after Buttigieg in particular over the impeachment trial. Noting that three of the candidates on stage served as senator-jurors, she quoted Buttigieg as joking from afar that he would have rather watched cartoons than the trial. Knocking DC service is easy, but that's not leadership, she said, adding that Buttigieg is trying to be the "cool newcomer." Then she drew a parallel to Trump. "We have a newcomer in the White House and look where that got us."
- Big close: Vox adds that Klobuchar ended the night in "particularly strong" fashion in her closing statement: "There is a complete lack of empathy in this guy in the White House right now, and I will bring that to you," she said. "If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent, I know you. I will fight for you. If you have trouble deciding if you are going to pay for your child care or your long-term care, I know you and I will fight for you. If you have trouble figuring out if you’re going fill your refrigerator or prescription, I know you and I will fight for you."
- Warren's efficient slam: In a question about Michael Bloomberg (who wasn't on stage) entering the race, Warren accused him of trying to buy the election. “I don’t think any billionaire ought to be able to do it, and I don’t think people who suck up to billionaires in order to fund their campaigns ought to do it,” Warren said. The New York Times sees that single line as a shot against Bloomberg, fellow billionaire Steyer, and Buttigieg, who has the backing of large donors. The AP thinks it also hits Biden for the same reason.
- Sanders vs. Buttigieg: Sanders also took a shot at Buttigieg on donors: "Unlike some of the folks up here, I don’t have 40 billionaires, Pete, contributing to my campaign,” he said, per Politico. Buttigieg reiterated that he was the only non-millionaire or non-billionaire on stage. He also decried "my way or the highway politics" and answered yes when asked if he was referring to Sanders, reports the Hill.
- On race: Warren had another pointed putdown of Buttigieg. After he defended his handling of racial issues in South Bend, particularly on arrests for marijuana possession, Warren was asked if his answer was sufficient. “No,” she said, to audience applause. Then: “You have to own up to the fact. And it is important to own up to the fact, about how race has totally permeated our criminal justice system.”
- Buttigieg's plea: The 38-year-old celebrated his lack of "Washington establishment experience," saying he had plenty of real-world experience as openly gay man, a military veteran, and a former mayor. “We need a perspective right now that will finally allow us to leave the politics of the past in the past, turn the page and bring change to Washington before it’s too late.” Biden, 77, responded, "The politics of the past, I think, are not all that bad."
- Sanders gets hit, too: Biden warned that Trump would have a heyday if a Democratic socialist won the nomination, and Klobuchar also warned against nominating a divisive candidate. They won't beat the "divider in chief" that way, she warned.
- Strong line: Buttigieg had one of the better-received lines of the night in regard to the prospect of Republicans investigating the Bidens. "No, we’re not going to let them change the subject,” he said. “This is not about Hunter Biden or Vice President Biden or anybody. This is about an abuse of power by the president.”
- Steyer warns: Steyer said Democrats were missing the boat on Trump. “If you look at what Mr. Trump is saying, he’s saying those words: ‘It’s the economy, stupid,'" Steyer said. “I trust every one of these people a million times more (than Trump). But we’re going to have to take Mr. Trump down on the economy, because if you listen to him, he’s crowing about it every single day. And he’s going to beat us unless we can take him down on the economy, stupid.” As Aaron Blake of the Washington Post notes, however, Democrats don't seem to have an answer to Trump on the economy.
- Yang's complaint: Yang pushed back against the focus on Trump. "Donald Trump is not the cause of all of our problems. And we're making a mistake when we act like he is," he said. "He is a symptom of a disease."
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