NASHUA/PLYMOUTH, N.H. (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg traded jabs over money and message on Sunday, two days before New Hampshire voters pick their choice to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November.
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at a campaign stop in Plymouth, New Hampshire, U.S., February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar
The rivals, who emerged from last week’s Iowa caucuses essentially tied, offer stark alternatives for the top of the Democratic ticket. Sanders, 78, is a U.S. senator and an impassioned progressive who has spent almost three decades in Congress, while Buttigieg, 38, is a moderate military veteran who served two terms as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
“The idea that we’ve either got to wait for a revolution or wait for the status quo leaves most of us out,” Buttigieg said at a packed middle school gymnasium in Nashua, New Hampshire, in thinly veiled references to rivals Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. “We need a politics that brings all of us in.”
Buttigieg, who would be the nation’s first openly gay president, deflected attacks from his more well-known rivals as they jostled to dampen the momentum of a candidate who has surged in New Hampshire polls over the past few days.
Tuesday’s primary, the second in a state-by-state nominating contest, also will test the staying power of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who finished third in Iowa, and Biden, who placed fourth. They joined the field of 11 Democratic candidates for a frantic day of campaigning ahead of the New Hampshire vote.
Here is what is happening on the campaign trail on Sunday:
Buttigieg said in Nashua that Democrats needs a unifying voice to take on Trump.
Sanders, speaking in Plymouth, criticized Buttigieg for taking money from “40 billionaires.”
The senator from Vermont touted his own small-dollar fundraising, saying, “Because we bring forth an agenda that doesn’t ask for approval from Wall Street, or the drug companies, our agenda is the agenda that represents working families.”
Buttigieg, who likes to note he is the least wealthy of the Democratic candidates, countered that he has never hesitated to stand up to industry.
“Bernie’s pretty rich, and I would happily accept a contribution from him,” Buttigieg said on CNN.
Brian Sterner, 59, who works in the chemical industry, said he was leaning toward Buttigieg but had concerns whether a small-city former mayor can beat Trump.
“I like his moderate political views and the fact that he’s trying to bring people together,” Sterner said while standing in line at Buttigieg’s Nashua rally. “I am concerned about his lack of experience. I do think that makes him vulnerable to attacks.”
‘A PLAN FOR THAT’
Warren made the rounds at Blake’s, a Manchester restaurant, posing for selfies and asking diners to tell her their No. 1 concern.
Her numerous policy proposals have led to the campaign slogan “Warren has a plan for that.” When one man mentioned the cost of prescription drugs, she explained her intention to use executive power to drop the prices of commonly used medications; another man got a quick summary of her plan to raise Social Security and Medicaid payments by $200 a month.
Katie Straw, 30, told Warren her biggest worry is the amount of student debt she still needs to pay off.
“So you know about my plan to cancel student loan debt?” Warren asked, explaining she would erase debt for 43 million Americans.
Straw later said she planned to vote for Sanders, who has proposed canceling all student loan debt.
“I really like Warren,” said Straw, an occupational therapist. “However, Bernie’s going to offer me a lot more.”
At a campaign stop in Concord, Warren told reporters that she did not intend to go negative on fellow front-runners.
“Look, we’re going to have to bring our party together in order to beat Donald Trump, and the way we do this is not by launching a bunch of attacks on each other and trying to tear each other down,” she said. “The way we do this is that we talk about the things we can run on together.”
‘MAD AS HELL’ ABOUT IOWA
Biden, speaking in a crowded hotel ballroom in Hampton, seemed ready to move on to other states that may be more favorable to him.
“No matter what happens in this state … I’m going to keep moving,” Biden said in response to a question about his poor showing in Iowa.
Biden conceded he was out-organized by Sanders and Buttigieg in Iowa – and reiterated his longstanding belief that he will perform better in states with a greater number of African Americans and other voters of color, including the upcoming contests in Nevada and South Carolina.
Last week’s Iowa caucuses, which were plagued with problems including a glitchy mobile app used to report result, continued to draw consternation.
“I’m mad as hell – everybody is,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told CNN.
Perez has been pushing states to move away from the complicated caucus system toward more straightforward primary contests like New Hampshire’s.
Democrats have complained about the outsize impact of Iowa and New Hampshire – rural states that do not represent the diversity of the party – on the primary process.
Perez was asked if that meant Iowa is about to lose its first-in-the-nation status.
“That’s the conversation that will absolutely happen after this election cycle,” he said.
Reporting by James Oliphant, Joseph Ax, Jarrett Renshaw, Simon Lewis and Amanda Becker in New Hampshire and Doina Chiacu in Washington, writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lisa Shumaker