But­tigieg on de­fense as ri­vals aim to blunt his mo­men­tum

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Thomas Beau­mont

DOVER, N.H. >> Pete But­tigieg has been on de­fense all week­end as his Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial ri­vals at­tacked him on ev­ery­thing from his strug­gle to con­nect with black vot­ers to ac­cept­ing cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from large donors in an ef­fort to blunt any mo­men­tum head­ing into Tues­day’s New Hamp­shire pri­mary.

Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders,

who es­sen­tially tied with But­tigieg in last week’s Iowa cau­cuses, blasted the for­mer mayor of South Bend, In­di­ana, for tak­ing con­tri­bu­tions from the very wealthy, sug­gest­ing But­tigieg won’t stand up to “Wall Street ty­coons” or “the cor­po­rate elite.” Mas­sachusetts Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren voiced sim­i­lar crit­i­cism, telling ABC’s “This Week” that “the coali­tion of bil­lion­aires is not ex­actly what’s go­ing to carry us over the top.” For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent

Joe Bi­den told the same pro­gram that But­tigieg hasn’t been able to “unify the black com­mu­nity.”

The vol­ley of crit­i­cism Sun­day was fresh ev­i­dence that But­tigieg, who was vir­tu­ally un­known in na­tional pol­i­tics a year ago, has be­come an early front-run­ner in the bat­tle for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. The de­vel­op­ments usher in a new phase of the cam­paign that will test how

But­tigieg re­sponds to the pres­sure, es­pe­cially as the con­test moves to more racially di­verse states where he has strug­gled to gain trac­tion.

But­tigieg hit back at Bi­den, who on Satur­day lamented com­par­isons be­tween the for­mer mayor and for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

“Oh, come on, man,”

Bi­den told re­porters. “This guy’s not a Barack Obama.”

“Well, he’s right, I’m not,” But­tigieg re­sponded on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And nei­ther is he. Nei­ther is any of us run­ning for pres­i­dent.”

He later of­fered an oblique cri­tique of San­ders’ com­bat­ive call for rev­o­lu­tion.

“Let’s re­mem­ber we’re fac­ing the most di­vi­sive pres­i­dent of our time, which is why we can’t risk di­vid­ing Amer­i­cans fur­ther,” But­tigieg told more than

1,800 peo­ple at an event in Nashua, New Hamp­shire.

Later in Dover, he de­clared him­self the can­di­date on the rise. “We are the cam­paign with the strong­est mo­men­tum in the state of New Hamp­shire, thanks to you,” he told a crowd of sev­eral hun­dred.

While re­spond­ing to some of the at­tacks, But­tigieg didn’t es­ca­late any feuds on Sun­day. That could help him main­tain the en­ergy of his op­ti­mistic Iowa cam­paign in which he por­trayed him­self as above the

Wash­ing­ton fray.

“Part of the rea­son why he’s do­ing well is he’s got a pretty sunny and up­beat pre­sen­ta­tion,” said David Ax­el­rod, a for­mer se­nior ad­viser to Obama. “Tac­ti­cally, I think it’s smart to han­dle it the way he’s han­dling it. We still don’t know what the im­pact any of this will have.”

But in a sign of po­ten­tial hur­dles ahead for But­tigieg, even vot­ers in an over­whelm­ingly white state like New Hamp­shire said they wanted to see ev­i­dence that he could build re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple of color. Kim Hol­man of Brook­line, New Hamp­shire, said she was un­de­cided but lean­ing to­ward But­tigieg’s “en­ergy and pas­sion.” Yet his strug­gle so far es­pe­cially with black vot­ers weighs on her de­ci­sion.

“It’s def­i­nitely a con­cern. New Hamp­shire is a su­per­white state,” the 52-year-old per­sonal trainer said. “I’m hop­ing he res­onates more with peo­ple of color.”

But­tigieg’s stand­ing has posed a chal­lenge to San­ders.

STEVEN SENNE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Pete But­tigieg greets peo­ple on Sun­day in Dover, N.H.

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