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The on-going feud between top-tier Democratic presidential nomination rivals Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg over top-dollar donations went from the campaign trail to the primetime primary debate stage on Thursday night.
Warren – who has eschewed fundraisers with top-dollar donors during her presidential bid as she instead focuses nearly entirely on small-dollar grassroots contributions – slammed Buttigieg for holding big bucks fundraisers. Buttigieg quickly shot back that he was the only candidate on the stage who’s net worth isn’t in the millions.
The verbal fist-fight kicked off with Warren taking aim at two of her top-tier rivals – Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Most of the people on this stage run a traditional campaign and that means going back and forth from coast to coast to rich people and people who can put up $5,000 or more in order to have a picture taken … and in order maybe to be considered an ambassador,” Warren emphasized.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., right, speaks as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg listens during a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Buttigieg responded by pointing to President Trump’s vast re-election campaign war chest, saying, “They’ve already put together more than $300 million … This is our only chance to defeat Donald Trump and we shouldn’t try to do it with one hand tied behind our back.”
Defending his mingling with top-dollar donors, Buttigieg added that “I’m not going to turn away anyone who wants to help us defeat Donald Trump.”
Warren shot back – highlighting that Buttigieg recently held a fundraiser “that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine.”
“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” she stressed.
Firing back, Buttigieg said, “I’m literally the only person on this stage who’s not a millionaire or a billionaire.”
“This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass,” Buttigieg added. “Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine.”
“I do not sell access to my time,” Warren responded. “I don’t meet behind closed doors with big-dollar donors.”
Buttigieg counter attacked, noting that Warren transferred millions of dollars to her presidential campaign that she initially raised at big bucks fundraisers during her 2018 Senate re-election bid.
“Your presidential campaign right now, as we speak, is funded in part by money you transferred having raised it at those exact same big ticket fundraisers you now denounce,” Buttigieg stated. “Did it corrupt you, senator? Of course not.”
The verbal fireworks between the two candidates is the latest chapter in their recent feud.
Thanks to repeated pressure from Warren, Buttigieg a week ago announced that he would open up his closed-door fundraisers to media coverage, similar to what the Biden campaign has done this election cycle.
And Buttigieg's campaign returned fire, urging Warren to release her tax returns from before 2008, when she had corporate clients similar to the giant corporations she now rails against. Warren — under pressure — announced that she earned nearly $2 million from private legal work since 1986.
Warren’s increased aggressiveness in going after her top-tier rivals comes as the one-time co-front-runner in the Democratic nomination race has seen her poll numbers deteriorate the past month in national surveys and, more importantly, in polls in New Hampshire and Iowa, the states that kicks off the primary and caucus presidential nominating calendar.