MANCHESTER, N.H. – Sen. Amy Klobuchar, looking to rise in New Hampshire ahead of its upcoming primary, swiped repeatedly at her leading rivals in Friday night’s Democratic presidential debate.
Early on, Klobuchar raised her hand first when the moderator asked if any of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ opponents were worried about a socialist leading the party’s ticket in November.
“Bernie and I work together all the time,” Klobuchar said of the Vermont senator. But, she said, “I think we need someone to lead this ticket that brings people together rather than shutting them out.”
Klobuchar said Democrats need a candidate who can “bring people in from the middle,” saying that would be “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.” She said she’s in the best position to be that candidate.
Within minutes, Klobuchar was mounting an even sharper attack on her fellow Midwesterner, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. She cited a remark he made in Iowa that the Senate impeachment trial was “exhausting” and “makes you want to watch cartoons.”
“It is easy to go after Washington, because it’s a popular thing to do,” Klobuchar said to Buttigieg. “It is much harder to lead and take difficult positions. But it’s popular to say and it makes you look like a cool newcomer. We have a newcomer in the White House and look where it got us.”
Buttigieg responded that “the reason I raise that sense of exhaustion is that I see it. I see that temptation of folks to walk away from it.”
Klobuchar’s early hits on Sanders and Buttigieg reflect the new landscape in the Democratic race, with the former Indiana mayor and the Vermont senator on the rise after their close first- and second-place finishes in the Iowa caucuses.
Klobuchar also went after Sanders, Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren over health care. She said Medicare for All, championed by both Sanders and Warren, is not politically feasible, noting that Sanders’ bill to implement it is not supported by two-thirds of Democratic senators. And she tweaked Buttigieg for once supporting the proposal but then shifting on it. He responded that he’s been consistent.
Klobuchar touted her own support for a public option under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act and said Democrats throw away their advantage with voters on health care at their own peril.
“The Affordable Care Act is 10 points more popular than the president,” Klobuchar said. “Why would we blow it up?”
New Hampshire Democratic politicos believe Klobuchar could mount a strong showing in Tuesday’s primary. But most polls of the state have her still stuck in fifth place, the same spot in which she finished in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night.
An NBC News poll taken immediately after the caucuses showed Klobuchar fifth, at 8%. Sanders and Buttigieg were a close first and second. Klobuchar has a busy last three days of campaigning planned for New Hampshire, with nine separate get-out-the-vote rallies between Saturday and Monday. Also on Friday, she landed an endorsement from former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, who briefly ran for president. Klobuchar told reporters in New Hampshire on Wednesday that she would head to the next contest in Nevada on Feb. 22 no matter how she places in the New Hampshire vote.