Buttigieg, Sanders aim to build momentum from New Hampshire debate

Buttigieg, Sanders aim to build momentum from New Hampshire debate

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMcConnell accuses Democrats of sowing division by 'downplaying progress' on election security The Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters Why Democrats must confront extreme left wing incitement to violence MORE (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration Overnight Defense: Woodward book causes new firestorm | Book says Trump lashed out at generals, told Woodward about secret weapons system | US withdrawing thousands of troops from Iraq A socially and environmentally just way to fight climate change MORE came under fire from their Democratic rivals at Friday night’s debate, as the two front-runners appear headed for a photo finish in next week's primary.

Buttigieg is surging in the polls in New Hampshire after greatly outperforming expectations in Iowa, where he effectively fought Sanders to a tie. The latest Granite State surveys find Sanders with only a narrow lead and Buttigieg coming on strong.

That dynamic was on full display at the Democratic debate at Saint Anselm College, as former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response Biden tells CNN town hall that he has benefited from white privilege MORE and others took shots at Buttigieg’s experience and Sanders’s left-wing politics in an effort to slow the front-runners ahead of the first-in-the nation primary on Tuesday.

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The core issue at Friday night’s debate was electability. Polls show that the ability to defeat Trump is the No. 1 issue on the minds of New Hampshire voters, and both Buttigieg and Sanders are facing questions about how they would fare one-on-one against the president.

Many mainstream Democrats believe that Sanders’s embrace of socialism will be ballot box poison for the party in November.

“That’s the label the president will put on him,” Biden warned.

The argument against Buttigieg has been that the 38-year-old mayor of a midsized Midwest town is too inexperienced to become commander-in-chief.

Businessman Tom SteyerTom SteyerTV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month Inslee calls Biden climate plan 'perfect for the moment' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration finalizes plan to open up Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling | California finalizes fuel efficiency deal with five automakers, undercutting Trump | Democrats use vulnerable GOP senators to get rare win on environment MORE, who was sounding the alarm all night about Trump’s electoral strength in November, warned that Buttigieg was not ready to take the debate stage against Trump.

“You have to have experience to take him down, that’s why I’m worried about Mayor Pete,” Steyer said. “You have to go toe-to-toe with him or we’ll lose.”

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Sanders was on message as usual, pointing to the surging youth turnout at the Iowa caucuses and arguing that his base of supporters are working class, young and energized — the kinds of people the Democratic Party must bring into the fold to compete with Trump.

“I believe that the way we beat Trump is by having the largest voter turnout in the history of this country," Sanders said. "It’s appealing to working class people who have given up on the political process because they don’t believe anyone is hearing their pain."

Buttigieg was ready for the attacks and went on the offensive, making the case that the best challenger to put up against Trump is someone who intimately understands working class voters in the American heartland.

He also made the case for generational change, saying that it’s time to “turn the page” on old Washington ways — a direct shot at Biden, whom he’s battling to be the party’s centrist standard bearer.

“I freely admit that if you're looking for the person with the most years of Washington establishment experience under their belt, you've got your candidate, and of course it's not me,” Buttigieg said. “We have to be ready to turn the page and change our politics before it's too late. And I'm seeing everywhere I go, not just fellow Democrats, but a striking number of independents, and what I like to call future former Republicans ready to join in that historic American majority to turn the page.”

Buttigieg skillfully parried attacks against him for most of the night but he did not escape completely unscathed.

The ABC moderators challenged him on his record on race in South Bend, where he’s been accused of promoting policies that have been harmful to people of color.

Buttigieg has struggled to attract support from black people, even as he’s succeeded in the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

After Buttigieg defended his record on race, the moderator turned to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Schumer introduce plan for next president to cancel ,000 in student debt The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Don't expect a government check anytime soon No new taxes for the ultra rich — fix bad tax policy instead MORE (D-Mass.) and asked if his answer was sufficient.

“No,” Warren said, in one of the debate’s most striking moments.

Buttigieg also played offense, taking aim at Sanders, whom he described as unbending in his commitment to extreme policies.

The former South Bend mayor said that nominating a staunch ideologue would not draw new people to the ballot box, potentially paving the way for Trump’s reelection.

When asked if he was referring to Sanders, Buttigieg responded, “Yes.”

Sanders and Buttigieg were not pitted against one another often, although Sanders did follow up on his attacks casting Buttigieg as the favorite candidate for billionaires.

Still, the night was largely defined by its cordiality, especially considering the high stakes and crowded field of contenders.

Buttigieg defended Biden against GOP attacks on Hunter Biden. Sanders said it was time to move on from the 2016 primary and bitter feelings between himself and eventual Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers The Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden MORE. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharEPA delivers win for ethanol industry angered by waivers to refiners It's time for newspapers to stop endorsing presidential candidates Biden marks anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, knocks Trump and McConnell MORE (D-Minn.) talked about the times Sanders had bipartisan success in the Senate. Sanders and Biden put their arms around one another at one point, smiling into the crowd.

“Everybody up here, by the way, is united, no matter who wins this damn thing, we're all going to stand together to defeat Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE,” Sanders said.