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Front-runners Buttigieg, Sanders come under fire at N.H. Democratic debate

By
Daniel Uria & Don Jacobson
Seven Democratic presidential candidates (L-R) Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Friday night. Photo by John Tlumacki/Boston Globe/EPA-EFE
Seven Democratic presidential candidates (L-R) Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Friday night. Photo by John Tlumacki/Boston Globe/EPA-EFE

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Surging presidential front-runners Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders came in for sustained criticism from their rivals, as well as from each other, Friday night at the eighth Democratic debate in New Hampshire.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Sanders, a U.S. senator from neighboring Vermont, entered with momentum after finishing in a virtual tie at Monday's Iowa caucuses, and in a crucial debate featuring five other Democratic presidential contenders were subjected to repeated attacks over their electability, experience and campaign contributors.

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They shared the stage with fellow competitors including former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and entrepreneurs Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang as all vied for support ahead of next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary election.

Some of the most pointed salvos directed at Buttigieg and Sanders came from each other.

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Buttigieg portrayed himself as a moderate alternative to the staunchly progressive Sanders, saying that to beat President Donald Trump in November, the Democratic candidate had to be broadly inclusive and not to subscribe to a "my way or the highway" brand of politics.

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Sanders, however, attacked Buttigieg for accepting donations from dozens of billionaires and their spouses, saying, "The way you bring people together is by presenting an agenda that works for the working people of this country, not for the billionaire class. The way you bring people together ... you raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour."

Klobuchar, competing for the same moderate voters as Buttigieg, criticized his inexperience, saying, "We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us."

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Biden, too, focused on Buttigieg's thin resume while also highlighting his perceived lack of support among minority voters.

"Mayor Buttigieg is a great guy and a real patriot," Biden said, "but he was the mayor of a small city but has not demonstrated the ability to get a broad scope of support including among African Americans and Latinos."

The 37-year-old Buttigieg, however, said it was time to "turn the page" on the broken politics of the past, in a remark seemingly aimed at the 76-year-old former vice president.

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Biden, who finished a disappointing fourth in Iowa, also took a swing at Sanders' perceived electability.

"Bernie has labeled himself, not me, a democratic socialist," he said "I think that's the label that the president is going to lay on everyone running with Bernie if he is the nominee."

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The debate was staged at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and was broadcast and moderated by ABC News.

Candidates who did not meet party requirements to participate are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney dropped out of the race since the last debate in January.

Qualifications for Friday's debate were that a candidate must have 5 percent support nationally or 7 percent support in early primary states, excluding Iowa. A candidate automatically qualifies if they received at least one pledged delegate in the Iowa caucuses.

Bloomberg took exception to being left out of Friday's debate. He's met the polling requirement but not the donor mandate, because the billionaire media mogul has declined to take any donations. His campaign is entirely self-funded. Gabbard met the donor requirement but not the polling mandate.

The automatic qualification became a bit sticky, however, as party officials were still recovering from a tumultuous vote on Tuesday when a technical glitch in a ballot-reporting application only gave Iowa Democratic leaders partial results. Officials cited inconsistencies, but reported Thursday 100 percent of the results showed Buttgieg (26.2 percent) and Sanders (26.1 percent) in a virtual tie for first place. Both received 11 pledged delegates.

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Warren placed third (18 percent/five delegates), followed by Biden (15.8 percent/two delegates), Klobuchar (12.3 percent/one delegate) and Yang (1 percent).

The next Democratic debate will be held in Las Vegas on Feb. 19.

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