Pete Buttigieg strikes back at rivals attacks on his lack of experience

Pete Buttigieg struck back at this Democratic rivals’ attacks on him, telling a party event Saturday night that Joe Biden‘s ‘familiar playbook’ can’t defeat Donald Trump and criticizing Bernie Sanders for dividing Americans.

Tensions in the presidential primary have skyrocketed after the uncertainty produced in the wake of Iowa’s caucus debacle and the failure of any of the contenders to capture the party’s imagination.

It’s all leading to fears of a repeat of 2016, when a wounded Hillary Clinton emerged from a bitter primary and was unable to defeat Donald Trump. 

Buttigieg, who took the lead in the latest New Hampshire poll, has become a target for the rest of the Democratic field after his strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, which still haven’t released official results.

Pete Buttigieg struck back at this Democratic rivals' attacks on him

Pete Buttigieg struck back at this Democratic rivals' attacks on him

Pete Buttigieg struck back at this Democratic rivals’ attacks on him

Joe Biden has criticized Buttigieg's lack of experience

Joe Biden has criticized Buttigieg's lack of experience

Joe Biden has criticized Buttigieg’s lack of experience

Bernie Sanders has criticized wealthy donors to Buttigieg's campaign

Bernie Sanders has criticized wealthy donors to Buttigieg's campaign

Bernie Sanders has criticized wealthy donors to Buttigieg’s campaign

His rivals are questioning his experience, a line of attack he directly tackled Saturday night at the McIntyre-Shaheen One Hundred Dinner in Manchester, a traditional gathering of party faithful ahead of Tuesday’s primary. 

‘I know some of you asking what business does a South Bend mayor have seeking the highest office in land,’ he told the about 8,000 Democrats in attendance. 

But he argued, South Bend, the city where he was mayor, was ‘more like Manchester, New Hampshire – which is the point.’

‘My belief in America is not the product of my age, it’s the product of my experience,’ he said to cheers from the crowd.  

Buttigieg, who at 38 is the youngest candidate in the field and who has never held national office, has been attacked by Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar for that lack of experience and by Bernie Sanders for the wealthy donors to his campaign. 

Biden released a vicious attack ad on Saturday, comparing his experience as vice president to Buttigieg’s time as mayor, and Sanders’ released his own video blasting Buttigieg’s wealthy supporters. 

Buttigieg fought back at Saturday’s Democratic cattle call – not mentioning his rivals by name but his meaning clear in his remarks. 

‘With a president this disruptive we cannot run the risk of trying to defeat a fundamentally new challenge by relying on the familiar playbook from before,’ he said in a veiled attack on Biden.

And he got in a hit at Sanders, saying: ‘With a president this divisive, we cannot risk dividing Americans future further, saying that you must either be for revolution or you must be for the status quo.’

Sanders supporters in the SNHU Arena shouted ‘Wall Street Pete’ at him in return.

Most of the major Democratic candidates spoke to the crowd – Michael Bloomberg did not appear – and brought in supporters to cheer them on. Sections of the arena were marked by candidate signs and colored lights. 

Sanders’ supporters had signs lit up with his name; Elizabeth Warren supporters had flashing LED lights that changed colors in sync, Buttigieg supporters had green glow stick bracelets; and Biden supporters had nothing that lit up.

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates - Elizabeth Warren is seen on stage - spoke at the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner in Manchester

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates - Elizabeth Warren is seen on stage - spoke at the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner in Manchester

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates – Elizabeth Warren is seen on stage – spoke at the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner in Manchester

Amy Klobuchar has also attacked Buttigieg for his lack of experience

Amy Klobuchar has also attacked Buttigieg for his lack of experience

Amy Klobuchar has also attacked Buttigieg for his lack of experience

Sanders’ supporters were the most vocal during the night. 

The Vermont senator, who has turned up his attacks on Buttigieg after both of them claimed victory in the wake of Iowa’s chaotic contest, didn’t directly attack his rival in his remarks.

Instead he noted that ‘we assume we won Iowa’ by 6,000 votes.

His words earned him cheers from his section of supporters and ramped up Buttigieg’s section of support, who yelled back ‘Boot-Edge-Edge. Boot-Edge-Edge. Boot-Edge-Edge.’

Sanders made an appeal for party unity. 

‘I know no matter who wins the Democratic nomination we are going to come together to defeat the most danger president in the history of country,’ he said.

But he noted his victory in the 2016 New Hampshire primary – amid a bitter battle between himself and Clinton – telling the crowd to join him to ‘complete the revolution.’

‘I want to thank New Hampshire that helped me being the political revolution four years ago and now is the time to complete that revolution,’ he said.  

Meanwhile, Biden appeared to have the smallest section of supporters in the arena.  

The former vice president spoke after Buttigieg and kept his attacks reserved for President Trump instead of his fellow Democrats. 

Biden spoke movingly of the people he had met as he campaigned in New Hampshire – a little boy who wanted to know how his family could buy insulin and a girl afraid of shootings in her school.

He then recounted his own losses in life: his first wife and daughter to a car accident and his son Beau to cancer.

‘I’ve lost a lot in my lifetime, like many of you have,’ he said before pivoting to hit Trump. ‘But I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand by and lose this election to this man.’

The crowd roared at his biggest applause line of the night, earning him a standing ovation.

Actor Micheal J. Fox stands as he is announced during the Democratic Party's 61st Annual McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club dinner; Fox was in the state campaigning for Buttigieg

Actor Micheal J. Fox stands as he is announced during the Democratic Party's 61st Annual McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club dinner; Fox was in the state campaigning for Buttigieg

Actor Micheal J. Fox stands as he is announced during the Democratic Party’s 61st Annual McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club dinner; Fox was in the state campaigning for Buttigieg

Andrew Yang salutes the crowd

Andrew Yang salutes the crowd

Andrew Yang salutes the crowd

Biden started his remarks with a compliment of New Hampshire and a dig at Iowa, where he placed fourth in the unofficial results after problems with an app the party developed to count caucus results turned the state’s contest up on its head.

‘You know how to run elections. You know how to run primaries!’ he told the crowd.

Earlier Saturday Biden had upped his attacks on Buttigieg.

‘I do believe we’re a party at risk if we nominate someone who’s never held an office higher than mayor of South Bend, Indiana,’ he told a crowd at the Rex Theatre in Manchester Saturday afternoon. 

And at an event later in the day he said of Buttigieg, ‘This guy’s not a Barack Obama.’   

And his new ad, which put the two candidates’ records side-by-side, and was tougher on Buttigieg than the digs Biden deployed onstage. The campaign has been pushing the ad on social media, where it’s racked up $2.7 million views on Twitter and 69,000 views on Facebook. 

While Biden helped get the Affordable Care Act passed giving healthcare to 20 million Americans, the ad boasted, Buttigieg ‘installed decorative lights under bridges giving citizens of South Bend colorfully illuminated rivers.’

And while Biden saved the auto industry after the 2008 crash, the spot said, Buttigieg ‘revitalized the sidewalks of downtown South Bend by laying out decorative brick.’ 

The attacks came as Buttigieg overtook Sanders in a Suffolk University tracking poll of New Hampshire Democratic voters.

Friday’s poll results showed Buttigieg at 25% and Sanders at 24%, within the margin of error.

Warren was third with 14% and Biden finished fourth with 11%, the poll showed. The other candidates were in single digits with 7% of voters undecided.

Buttigieg came under attack at Friday night's debate: The seven candidates participating in Friday night's debate (from left) are Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer

Buttigieg came under attack at Friday night's debate: The seven candidates participating in Friday night's debate (from left) are Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer

Buttigieg came under attack at Friday night’s debate: The seven candidates participating in Friday night’s debate (from left) are Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer

Biden shrugged off those results. 

‘Look, the reports of our death are premature,’ he told a field office of volunteers Saturday afternoon.     

At Friday’s debate, Buttigieg, who declared himself the victor in Iowa in the wake of its caucus debacle, took the hits that come with front runner status.

Biden and Klobuchar questioned whether he had the capacity to successfully face off with Trump, questioning whether he has the experience to lead the nation.

Buttigieg, who served two terms as mayor of South Bend, a city with a population of 100,000, said the Washington insider experience of some of his rivals was no longer what was needed, and it was time to ‘turn the page’ on the old Washington politics.

‘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,’ he said. 

Klobuchar hit back claiming that ‘it is easy to go after Washington, because that’s a popular thing to do. It is much harder … to lead and much harder to take those difficult positions’. 

Then she dug into the fresh-faced Buttigieg: ‘Because I think this going after every single thing that people do because it’s popular to say and makes you look like a cool newcomer, I just – I don’t think that’s what people want right now. We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us. I think having some experience is a good thing.’

 

 

 

 

 

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