Biden Takes Aim at Buttigieg and Sanders After Iowa Caucus Loss

Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou

(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden stepped up attacks on his Democratic rivals Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders while campaigning in New Hampshire Wednesday, a day after results out of the Iowa caucuses showed the former vice president in fourth place in the first nominating contest.

The gloves came off during a town hall in Somersworth, when Biden said that Buttigieg’s limited experience in leadership as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, would make him a risky choice as the party’s nominee.

“I do believe it’s a risk, to be straight-up with you, for this party to nominate someone who’ve never held an office higher than mayor of a town of 100,000 people in Indiana.”

Biden kicked off the town hall by acknowledging that the result in Iowa was a blow.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” he said. “We took a gut punch in Iowa.”

Biden has staked his campaign on the argument that he is best positioned to ride anti-Trump sentiment to a victory in the general election, but his poor showing in Iowa has raised questions about that strategy.

With 85% of precincts reporting Wednesday, Buttigieg had 26.9% of state delegate equivalents, Sanders had 25.2%, Elizabeth Warren was in third place with 18.2%, followed by Biden with 15.6%. Buttigieg’s strong showing makes him a serious threat to Biden in competition for moderate voters.

Buttigieg, 38, has contrasted himself from Biden, 77, with a campaign calling for generational change, often saying that the old ways of running things in Washington no longer works.

Biden fired back at that narrative.

“Mayor Pete likes to attack me as well,” Biden said. “He likes to call me part of the old, failed Washington. Well, really? Is he really saying the Obama-Biden administration was a failure? Pete, just say it out loud.”

Biden then cited a series of examples that he said showcased his ability to get things done, including helping to pass Obamacare, joining the Paris climate accord and passing the Violence Against Women act.

He also went after Sanders for being a “democratic socialist” and said Trump is desperate to run against someone who’s labeled himself that way.

“Every Democrat will have to carry the label Senator Sanders has chosen for himself,” Biden said. “I don’t criticize him, but he calls himself a democratic socialist. We’ve already seen what Donald Trump is going to do with that.”

In the most recent New Hampshire poll conducted by the Boston Globe and Suffolk University, Biden came in second at 15%, behind Sanders who polled at 24%. Another recent New Hampshire survey, conducted by Emerson College, showed Biden at 13%, trailing both the Vermont senator who led with 32% and Buttigieg at 17%.

During his town hall Wednesday, Biden homed in on his message about being a candidate who would united the party by appealing to moderate and liberal Democrats.

“So when Sanders attacks me for having baggage, I have to tell you, the 60-plus candidates that I campaigned for in the toughest districts in the country just two years ago don’t see me as baggage,” he said.

Biden, who’s still polling in as the front-runner in most national polls, has his eyes set on a strong finish in South Carolina, where he can rely on support from African American voters. He urged the crowd at his New Hampshire to back him up in the vote next week.

“I know that there are an awful lot of people who are trying to write off this campaign. I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “And I’m counting on New Hampshire.”

Shortly after the event in Somersworth, Biden took another jab at Buttigieg, this time on Twitter, saying “I have a stronger record of passing big, progressive legislation than anyone running.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou in Washington at megkolfopoul@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Gregory Mott, John Harney

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