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Warren And Buttigieg Clash As They Compete For Votes


Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., is near or at the top of a crowded Democratic presidential primary race in New Hampshire and Iowa. He's also increasingly clashing with another candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Here is WBUR's Anthony Brooks on how the two are competing for the same pool of voters.

ANTHONY BROOKS, BYLINE: Both candidates are attracting white, highly educated voters in predominantly white New Hampshire and Iowa. So it's not surprising they're taking shots at each other. Unlike Warren, Buttigieg is a moderate. Instead of "Medicare for All" he favors a public option and says Warren, and Bernie Sanders, for that matter, are too far to the left to bring the country together.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: We can do big things without detonating the kind of divisiveness that we already see happening among a polarized American people.

BROOKS: Are you saying people like Warren and Sanders are detonating that divisiveness?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, we certainly see that risk in the approach to health care - this kind of my-way-or-the-highway idea.

BROOKS: Warren, who has forsworn big donors, has been hitting back, criticizing Buttigieg for holding closed-door fundraisers.


ELIZABETH WARREN: He needs to make clear who's raising money for him, and he should open up the doors so that anyone, particularly the press, can come in and hear exactly what's being said to these folks.

BROOKS: Earlier this week, Buttigieg announced that he will open his fundraisers to the press.

Buttigieg is openly gay, a veteran and a Rhodes scholar. At a recent appearance at New England College in Henniker, N.H., he said he's the best equipped to lead a post-Trump America.


BUTTIGIEG: The challenge will be to implement big-enough, bold-enough ideas to meet that moment and to figure out a way to do it that can unify a dangerously divided American people.

BROOKS: It's a message that impresses Democrat Maralyn Doyle.

MARALYN DOYLE: I like that he's smart, that he's well-spoken, he's quick on his feet, that he speaks seven languages. That's really impressive. You know, we have a president that doesn't even speak one. You know, our president's being joked about by foreign leaders, and rightly so.

BROOKS: A day later, as fresh snow blanketed the state, Warren was in a bowling alley in Peterborough, touting her many plans, including a wealth tax on multimillionaires to pay for a series of programs to help working Americans.


WARREN: And when you see a government that works great for those with money and it's not working for much of anyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple. And we need to call it out for what it is.

BROOKS: Molly McDowell, who lives close by, says Warren is the best candidate to take on Trump.

MOLLY MCDOWELL: And I think she could wipe the floor with him in a debate. I think she's brilliant. She has great plans. And I find her very inspiring and down to earth.

BROOKS: Is there a second choice?


BROOKS: A poll out this past week from WBUR found Buttigieg in the lead in New Hampshire, with Warren, the former front-runner, in fourth place behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Leslie Ring, a voter from Bow, N.H., says she loves everything about Warren, except...

LESLIE RING: I'm not sure she's electable.

BROOKS: Ring says Warren might be too divisive, so she's backing Buttigieg.

Steve Koczela, who conducted that WBUR poll, says Warren's $20 trillion Medicare for All plan might have something to do with her decline.

STEVE KOCZELA: It was sort of about the time that she rolled out the Medicare for All plan in some detail that her momentum seemed to fade a little bit.

BROOKS: But Koczela's poll found the four front-runners are within just a few points of each other and that 1 in 5 Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire is still undecided. So this race is far from settled.

For NPR News, I'm Anthony Brooks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Brooks has more than twenty five years of experience in public radio, working as a producer, editor, reporter, and most recently, as a fill-in host for NPR. For years, Brooks has worked as a Boston-based reporter for NPR, covering regional issues across New England, including politics, criminal justice, and urban affairs. He has also covered higher education for NPR, and during the 2000 presidential election he was one of NPR's lead political reporters, covering the campaign from the early primaries through the Supreme Court's Bush V. Gore ruling. His reports have been heard for many years on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.