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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg took incoming fire on electability issues from former Vice President Joe Biden and other rivals as the eighth Democratic primary debate kicked off Friday night, as Democrats search for a candidate capable of beating President Trump in November.
“The president wants very much to stick a label on every candidate,” Biden said in the New Hampshire debate of how Trump would treat the eventual Democratic nominee. “Bernie’s labeled himself, not me, a democratic socialist. I think that the label the president’s going to lay on everyone running with Bernie if he’s the nominee.”
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Biden then went on to attack Buttigieg.
“Mayor Buttigieg is a great guy and a real patriot,” Biden said. “[He] has not demonstrated he has the ability to, and we’ll soon find out, to get a broad scope of support across the spectrum, including African-Americans and Latinos.”
Sanders defended himself, saying “it doesn’t matter what Donald Trump says” and pointing out that Trump will attack any Democratic candidate.
Buttigieg responded by saying, “I’m not interested in the labels. … I’m interested in the style of politics we need to put forward to actually, finally, turn the page,” on the Trump administration.
Co-hosted by ABC, WMUR-TV and Apple News, the debate brought seven of the Democratic contenders to Saint Anslem College in Manchester, N.H., ahead of that state’s first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday. The debate comes as neither news organizations nor the Iowa Democratic Party have been able to call a winner in Monday’s Iowa caucuses while Buttigieg and Sanders, I-Vt., are both claiming victory in the state.
At the moment, Buttigieg has a narrow lead in “state delegate equivalents,” or SDEs, which are what helps decide how many delegates candidates get to bring to the Democratic National Convention later this year. Sanders, on the other hand, leads in the popular vote from both the “first alignment” and the “second alignment” phases of the caucuses. Those numbers could change, however, as the IDP has noted many irregularities in its vote count and it is highly likely candidates will call for reexaminations of the numbers. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez already has.
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The other candidates at the New Hampshire debate are Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., billionaire liberal booster Tom Steyer and businessman Andrew Yang.
Biden is coming off what appears to be a fourth-place performance in Iowa that he characterized as a “gut punch” while the Klobuchar campaign is looking for a momentum boost that didn’t come in the Hawkeye State as it currently sits significantly behind Biden in fifth-place.
Warren is comfortably in third place in Iowa and will try to make a case to her neighboring New Hampshire that she, and not Sanders — who currently leads in most Granite State polls — is the best New Englander to take on President Trump in November.
The Steyer and Yang campaigns are essentially throwing Hail Marys in New Hampshire after dismal finishes in Iowa. They’ll battle for votes with other flagging campaigns that did not qualify for the New Hampshire debate.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick was a late entrant into the race and didn’t register in the Iowa caucuses. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has staked her entire campaign on New Hampshire, spending more time there than any other candidate. Sen. Mike Bennet, D-Colo., was on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” from New Hampshire in the lead-up to the Friday debate, looking to get national television exposure for his campaign which has struggled to gain any traction.
Not even bothering with New Hampshire is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is avoiding early states and using his billions to fill the airwaves in Super Tuesday states.
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