The Democratic debate stage on Thursday night featured the smallest crop of White House hopefuls yet.
But what it lacked in the number of podiums, it made up for with rousing exchanges and well-received one-liners. Here are some of the best zingers from the final Democratic presidential debate of the decade.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar began the debate by offering some historical perspective on President Donald Trump’s impeachment, taking the concept all the way back to the constitutional convention while also referencing President Richard Nixon.
Klobuchar cited James Madison’s rationale for including a means for impeachment in the Constitution, citing his fear “that a president would betray the trust of the American people for a foreign power.”
“That is what happened here,” she contended. “Watergate? This is a global Watergate.”
‘A gay dude in Mike Pence’s Indiana’
A common critique of Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy is the South Bend mayor’s relative lack of experience. Specifically, some point to the fact that Buttigieg has only received several thousand votes total in his two runs for mayor.
His political experience, or lack thereof, became the focal point of an extended quarrel with Klobuchar, who, like Buttigieg, has repeatedly touted her credentials as a midwesterner.
But the mayor argued Thursday that while his vote totals are occasionally ridiculed, such a task was easier said than done after coming out as gay in a state where then-Gov. Mike Pence was accused of enabling discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
“Senator, I know that if you just go by vote totals, maybe what goes on in my city seems small to you,” Buttigieg told Klobuchar. “If you want to talk about the capacity to win, try putting together a coalition to bring you back to office with 80 percent of the vote as a gay dude in Mike Pence’s Indiana.”
‘Bigger fish to fry’
During the scrabble over Buttigieg’s experience, Klobuchar reopened an old wound by firing back at criticism the mayor leveled in last month’s Democratic debate.
In November, Buttigieg questioned the value of Washington experience, asking: “There’s over 100 years of Washington experience on this stage, and where has that gotten us as a country?”
While Buttigieg “mocked” that wealth of experience on stage, Klobuchar argued that she had never “denigrated your experience as a local official.”
But “you actually did denigrate my experience, senator,” Buttigieg countered. But, he explained, “it was before the break, and I was gonna let it go because we have bigger fish to fry here.”
“I don’t think we have bigger fish to fry than picking a president of the United States,” Klobuchar interjected.
Obama sparks a debate
During an exchange about the virtues of women in power, Biden dismissed the idea that his former boss could have had him in mind when questioning the value of older men clinging to power.
According to BBC, former President Barack Obama asserted during a private event in Singapore this week that women are “indisputably” better leaders than men, and predicted that if more women led countries around the globe, you would see a “significant improvement across the board on just about everything.”
“If you look at the world and look at the problems,” he added, according to the outlet, “it’s usually old people, usually old men, not getting out of the way.”
“Senator Sanders, you are the oldest candidate on stage this evening,” POLITICO moderator Tim Alberta said.
“And I’m white as well!” Bernie Sanders exclaimed, eliciting a smile from the moderator before delivering a “maybe a little self-serving” disagreement with the former president.
When the same question was posed to Biden, Obama’s one-time running mate dismissed the idea that his former boss could’ve had him in mind.
“I’m going to guess that President Obama did not clear that remark through your campaign ahead of time,” Alberta said.
“And I’m going to guess he wasn’t talking about me either,” Biden shot back.
Alberta followed up, setting up a question about whether Biden would commit to running for a second term by pointing out that he would turn 82 at the end of his first term — “the oldest president in history.”
Biden then countered, offering up former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who resigned when he was 80.
When Alberta clarified that he was referring to American leaders, Biden responded with a smirk.
“I was joking. That was a joke,” he laughed. “POLITICO doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren got her own swipe in during the age discussion, and was asked for her take on Obama’s assertion, seeing as she would be the oldest person to be sworn in as president if elected.
“I’d also be the youngest woman ever inaugurated,” she shot back with a smile.
Whining about wine caves
Thursday’s debate featured a war of words between Buttigieg and Warren over high-dollar fundraisers, in a continuation of a fight that has roiled the Democratic presidential field for weeks.
The rivals sparred over wine caves and personal wealth, hurling accusations of hypocrisy at one another.
“We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren said to applause in the debate hall, adding: “Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.”
But Buttigieg, who recently held the wine cave fundraiser, shot back with his own criticism of the wealth of every other candidate onstage, pointing out that “I’m literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire.”
He continued his line of attack on Warren, contending that “this is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass. If I pledge — if I pledge never to be in the company of a progressive Democratic donor, I couldn’t be up here.”
As Warren grasped the side of her podium beside her, Buttigieg continued to lay into her personal fortune, amassed over years as a corporate lawyer and law professor.
“Senator your net worth is 100 times mine,” he said. “Supposing you went home and felt the holiday spirit — I know this isn’t likely, but stay with me — and decided to go on peteforamerica.com and gave the maximum allowable by law — $2,800 — would that pollute my campaign because it came from a wealthy person? No. I would be glad to have that support. We need the support to everybody who is invested to help beat Donald Trump.”
Why is Yang on stage?
Businessman Andrew Yang has shocked pundits by his ability to keep returning to Democratic debate stages despite escalating qualification requirements, besting sitting members of Congress, mayors and governors for spots onstage. He acknowledged his surprising traction among primary voters by poking fun at himself in his closing statement on Thursday night.
“I know what you’re thinking, America. How am I still on this stage with them?” he asked, to laughter in the debate hall.
“Our campaign is growing all the time because we are laser focused on solving the real problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place,” he asserted.
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