Bi­den steps up crit­i­cism of But­tigieg in NH at­tack

Former VP try­ing not to fall be­hind Demo­cratic ri­vals

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Julie Pace and Hunter Woodall

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Scram­bling to sal­vage his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Joe Bi­den es­ca­lated his crit­i­cism of Pete But­tigieg on Satur­day, mock­ing But­tigieg’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a small-city mayor and cut­ting down the com­par­isons But­tigieg has drawn to the last Demo­cratic pres­i­dent, declar­ing: “This guy’s not a Barack Obama.”

Bi­den’s bit­ing at­tacks on But­tigieg’s re­sume mark a new, more ag­gres­sive at­tempt to slow the mo­men­tum of the youngest can­di­date in the Demo­cratic field. But­tigieg emerged from Iowa in an ef­fec­tive tie with Sen. Bernie San­ders, but faces ques­tions about whether his eight years as mayor of South Bend, In­di­ana — a city of about 100,000 peo­ple — pre­pared him for the pres­i­dency.

“I do not be­lieve we’re a party at risk if I’m the nom­i­nee,” Bi­den told vot­ers in Manchester. “I do be­lieve we’re a party at risk if we nom­i­nate some­one who has never held a higher of­fice than the mayor of South Bend, In­di­ana.”

Bi­den is try­ing to avoid fall­ing far be­hind both But­tigieg and San­ders in a sec­ond straight nom­i­nat­ing con­test.

On Satur­day morn­ing, the cam­paign posted an on­line video at­tack­ing But­tigieg that was one of the harsh­est in­tra­party broad­sides of the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

The 90-sec­ond video com­pares Bi­den’s record as vice pres­i­dent with But­tigieg’s ser­vice as mayor. While Bi­den helped Pres­i­dent Barack Obama pass sweep­ing health care leg­is­la­tion and or­ches­trate a bailout of the auto in­dus­try, the ad says, But­tigieg was in­stalling dec­o­ra­tive lights on bridges and re­pair­ing side­walks.

But­tigieg’s in­ex­pe­ri­ence is among his chief vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties as he pitches vot­ers on his pre­pared­ness for the Oval Of­fice. He’s ar­gued that his ten­ure as mayor, par­tic­u­larly of a Rust Belt city, gives him a bet­ter feel for the con­cerns of vot­ers Democrats need to win back in 2020.

But he has not yet had to de­fend the sub­stance of his record against the kind of spe­cific at­tack Bi­den launched.

But­tigieg’s cam­paign accused Bi­den of triv­i­al­iz­ing the work that goes on in small cities across the coun­try, and of po­lit­i­cal des­per­a­tion.

“The vice pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to run this ad speaks more to where he cur­rently stands in this race than it does about Pete’s per­spec­tive as a mayor and vet­eran,” said Chris Meagher, But­tigieg’s cam­paign spokesman.

But­tigieg’s calls for gen­er­a­tional change and his crit­i­cism of Wash­ing­ton has irked some of his ri­vals, in­clud­ing Bi­den, who has accused the former mayor of un­der­cut­ting the work of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

But­tigieg has ar­gued that while the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had suc­cesses, the coun­try is in a dif­fer­ent place than it was four years ago and re­quires new lead­er­ship. He’s also tried to draw com­par­isons to Obama, high­light­ing his abil­ity to over­come ques­tions about his own in­ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the 2008 cam­paign.

The former vice pres­i­dent made clear on Satur­day that he sees the com­par­i­son as ill-fit­ting.

“This guy’s not a Barack Obama,” he told re­porters. “Barack Obama had laid out a clear vi­sion of what he thought the in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety should look like and what the or­der should be. Barack Obama had laid out in de­tail what he thought should hap­pen with re­gard to the econ­omy.”

It’s not just But­tigieg who is block­ing Bi­den’s path. San­ders also ap­pears poised for a strong show­ing in New Hamp­shire, a state he won by more than 20 per­cent­age points in 2016.

Dur­ing a cam­paign event on Satur­day, San­ders said that pre­vi­ous vic­tory gave him cru­cial cred­i­bil­ity with vot­ers.

“New Hamp­shire broke through and said to the es­tab­lish­ment, ‘You know what, stand­ing up for work­ing fam­i­lies is not a rad­i­cal idea,’ ” he said.

San­ders, a self-de­scribed demo­cratic so­cial­ist, still faces ques­tions from some Democrats about whether he would dam­age the party in the gen­eral elec­tion. Bi­den and Min­nesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have led that charge, with Klobuchar be­ing the only can­di­date to raise a hand in Fri­day’s de­bate when mod­er­a­tors asked if any­one was wor­ried about hav­ing San­ders at the top of the ticket.

“Peo­ple know I’m straight­for­ward and I tell them the truth,” Klobuchar said of the mo­ment on Satur­day.

Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, who rep­re­sents neigh­bor­ing Mas­sachusetts in the

Se­nate, also needs a strong fin­ish in New Hamp­shire to prove her cam­paign vi­a­bil­ity in the pri­mary. As she spoke to sup­port­ers be­fore they headed out to knock on doors, she noted that it had been three years since Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., ad­mon­ished her on the Se­nate floor with the phrase “nev­er­the­less, she per­sisted” — an ex­pres­sion that War­ren has turned into a motto for her cam­paign.

“I’ve been win­ning un­winnable fights pretty much all my life,” she said.

CHARLES KRUPA/AP

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Pete But­tigieg speaks Satur­day in Le­banon, N.H.

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