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Sunday, February 9, 2020

On the trail: Sanders, Buttigieg race across New Hampshire ahead of vote

On the trail: Sanders, Buttigieg race across New Hampshire ahead of voteOn the trail: Sanders, Buttigieg race across New Hampshire ahead of vote

By Jarrett Renshaw and Simon Lewis

NASHUA/PLYMOUTH, N.H. (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, a former Indiana mayor, exchanged barbs on Sunday in New Hampshire, two days before the state's voters pick their choice to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November.

The pair, who emerged from last week's Iowa caucuses essentially tied, in some ways mark the poles of the Democratic field: Sanders, 78, is an impassioned progressive who has spent almost three decades in Congress, Buttigieg, 38, a moderate veteran who spent two terms as mayor of South Bend.

"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, in a thinly veiled references to rivals Sanders and Biden. "We need a politics that brings all of us in."

Democratic hopefuls also include U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who finished third in Iowa, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who placed fourth. They had planned a frantic day of campaigning as the hours tick down to Tuesday's vote, the second of this year's campaign.

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.

Here is what is happening on the campaign trail on Sunday:

'VULNERABLE'

Buttigieg said at a packed middle school gymnasium in Nashua that Democrats needs a unifying voice to take on Trump.

Sanders criticized Buttigieg for taking money from "40 billionaires" before a crowd in Plymouth.

He 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, and then took a jab at Sanders' wealth.

"Well, 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 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."

'I'M A FIGHTER'

Warren made the rounds at Blake's, a Manchester restaurant, posing for selfies and telling diners she needed their vote.

"I'm a fighter," she told one woman. "You don't make it as a girl with three older brothers if you're not a fighter."

Warren, whose numerous and detailed policy proposals have led to the campaign slogan "Warren has a plan for that," stopped by several tables, asking patrons to tell her their No. 1 concern.

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 that 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."

'MAD AS HELL' ABOUT IOWA

Biden 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 question about his poor showing in Iowa.

Biden conceded he was out-organized by both 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 were plagued with problems including a glitchy mobile app used to report results.

"I'm frustrated. 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.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters
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