Weeks from Iowa vote, Klobuchar steps up hits on Buttigieg

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

SOUTH GATE, Calif. (AP) — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has argued for weeks that Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of a small Indiana city, doesn’t have enough experience to be a serious contender for the Democratic nomination for president. As she heads into a 27-county tour of Iowa, the lead-off caucus state, she’s brought those frustrations fully into public view.

Klobuchar on Friday continued the clash she started with Buttigieg in the previous night’s debate, where she referred to him as a “local official” and reminded voters he lost his only attempt at winning statewide office, for Indiana treasurer in 2010.

“I think that voters need to know that,” she said Friday on MSNBC. “Because we need to have someone on the top of this ticket with the best bet of beating Donald Trump. And to me that means a combination of can you get things done, what do you do when you’re president, but also can you win this race.”

Klobuchar has been frustrated by Buttigieg’s improbable rise in Iowa, where the two are fighting for the same moderate slice of the electorate by showcasing their Midwestern roots. Klobuchar, 59, has been elected to the U.S. Senate three times from Minnesota, Iowa’s northern neighbor; Buttigieg, 37, has served two terms as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a city of about 100,000 people.

After the Los Angeles debate, Klobuchar was off to Iowa for a four-day trip that would take her to a quarter of the state’s counties. Buttigieg, meanwhile, remained on the West Coast for events on environmental justice and Latino issues near Los Angeles before heading to Nevada, the third state to vote. At his first event, he didn’t address Klobuchar’s attacks or take questions from the press.

Klobuchar has picked up steam in Iowa in recent weeks, using a combination of humor and the argument that she has a record of getting things done. She’s also cited her electoral track record in Minnesota, where she’s won in Republican areas, and argued she’d run big enough margins to help Democrats win seats down the ticket.

But Buttigieg has reached top-tier status in the state, which votes on Feb. 3. He’ll head there for campaign events Saturday. He’s frequently made the argument that mayors have a better track record of tackling real issues than politicians in Washington. At Friday morning’s roundtable on environmental issues, he said that while more money should come from the federal government for things like clean water, not all the solutions must come from Washington.

The night before, Klobuchar said the combined experience of the senators on stage was not to be belittled. She noted former Vice President Joe Biden, who previously served in the Senate, has fought to cure cancer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren helped establish an agency dedicated to protecting consumers from predatory practices and authored provisions in major farm bills, and Sen. Bernie Sanders worked on a veterans bill. Her hits on Buttigieg were her most aggressive yet.

“I think experience matters,” she said Friday.

Buttigieg didn’t let the attacks slide in the debate, noting he has different experience of serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve. On his electoral record, he said it was no small feat to win elected office as “a gay dude in Mike Pence’s Indiana,” a reference to the conservative vice president who was previously the state’s governor.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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