Joe Biden went negative against Pete Buttigieg on Saturday, attacking the Iowa-bolstered South Bend mayor over his inexperience, as well as attempting to counter the notion that Buttigieg was a Barack Obama–like candidate.
Biden’s campaign has been in turmoil following his brutal fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, and his performance during Friday night’s debate didn’t inspire a lot of confidence either. Buttigieg, on the other hand, is heading in the opposite direction — at least for now. From the not-final results we’ve seen, he and Bernie Sanders both effectively won the Iowa caucuses/debacle, and the latest polls show Buttigieg just behind Sanders in New Hampshire, where the first Democratic primary of 2020 will happen on Tuesday.
At the beginning of the debate on Friday, Biden predicted he would lose the state to Sanders, but he didn’t go after Buttigieg like Amy Klobuchar — who didn’t just attack the mayor’s lack of experience, but portrayed him as literally childlike (and apparently raked in the donations afterward). The next day, Biden joined in on the direct attacks, both in person on the campaign trail and online in a new attack ad.
“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 said to voters in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Saturday, once again selling himself as the safer bet against President Trump in the fall. Biden, who has staked much of his campaign on his long working relationship with President Obama, also directly dismissed any comparison between Mayor Pete and the former president.
“This guy’s not a Barack Obama,” Biden said, and eventually even tried to take partial credit for Buttigieg’s successes. “One of the reasons [South Bend] did well is because I was able to direct about $65 million there from the Recovery Act,” Biden claimed.
Online, the Biden campaign launched a 90-second digital attack ad which contrasts Biden’s accomplishments at the federal level with Buttigieg’s at the local level — mocking and trivializing Mayor Pete’s small-city efforts, and straight-up attacking his handling of the firing of a black police chief and black fire chief in South Bend. The ad, which opens with a clip of Obama calling Biden “the best vice-president America’s ever had,” will air on Facebook and YouTube, and is by far the most negative ad yet released by a Democratic presidential candidate.
Buttigieg and his campaign responded to the attacks on Saturday. The campaign wrote it off as a desperation play by Biden, while the candidate offered some outsider-spin by claiming his inexperience, in Washington D.C., was an asset.
“I believe that we would be well-served if we could start to get Washington to work a little more like our best-run cities and towns rather than the other way around,” Buttigieg told voters in Hanover. By his third event of the day, Buttigieg had rephrased his response into a defense of the Rust Belt. “We’re tired of being reduced to a punchline by Washington politicians who want to see themselves in our stories,” he told voters in Lebanon.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, attacked Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg on Saturday over their campaign financing, but not Biden.
A Boston Globe/WBZ/Suffolk University poll released Friday showed Buttigieg a point ahead of Sanders among New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, 25 to 24 percent. A CNN/University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll out Saturday showed 28 percent supporting Sanders and 21 percent supporting Buttigieg — who was up six points since mid-January.