‘It sure feels like Buttigieg and Klobuchar have wind in their sails’

“If you want the left-most possible candidate, you’ve got a clear choice. If you want the candidate with the most years in Washington, you’ve got a clear choice. For everybody else, I just might be your person,” Buttigieg said after an event at the University of Chicago, where he spoke with David Axelrod, former President Barack Obama’s chief strategist. “I think we saw that space opening up.”

Klobuchar, speaking aboard her bright green campaign bus in Iowa — and joking that she was happy to be able to pay to wrap her logo around it after her post-debate fundraising boomlet — said her scraps with Sanders and Warren showed a focus on the swing voters who will decide the 2020 election, particularly in the Midwest.

Klobuchar chided Warren during the debate that “the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something you can actually get done.” Earlier, Buttigieg had told the Massachusetts senator that her “signature” is “to have a plan for everything, except” health care.

Warren and Sanders “say, we are brave because these are our ideas, and you’re not because you don’t share our ideas,” Klobuchar said in an interview. “Of course, I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and I said, no, I think it’s actually brave to bring up that you should pay for things in our party. I think it’s brave to acknowledge that we should bring in independents and moderate Republicans.”

In Waterloo, Iowa, Klobuchar told the 100-person crowd at Single Speed Brewing that the campaign raised $1.5 million in the 36 hours following the debate, a “huge amount of momentum,” she said to cheers, “and it gave me the chance to say a few more words than I got to in past debates from my perch up there on the side.”

Still, other 2020 candidates, like Kamala Harris and Julian Castro, bounced off of big moments in past debates but watched the attention fizzle out, without translating into lasting gains for their campaigns.

The new round of attention for both Midwesterners comes at a key moment: Klobuchar has yet to qualify for the November debate stage, while Buttigieg faced new questions about his campaign’s attention to racial issues. And both of them still have significant ground to make up in the polls.

“It sure feels like Buttgieg and Klobuchar have wind in their sails,” said Jeff Link, an Iowa-based Democratic strategist. But it is “open question is whether they have the organizational capacity to take advantage of it.”

Based on money and staff footprint, Buttigieg is better positioned: He ended September with $23.4 million in his campaign account — third in the Democratic field — while Klobuchar has $3.7 million to spend. She’s only reached 3 percent in one early-state poll, and she needs three more to qualify for the November debate. On the ground in Iowa, Buttigieg’s staff is about double the size of Klobuchar’s. Both candidates are currently airing TV ads in Iowa.

“She’s not been able to raise money online to the same extent as Buttigieg, which increases the pressure on debate performances and big moments,” Link said. “It’s a challenge to get coverage, to get attention if you’re not on stage … You’ve got to be there.”

But Klobuchar, who rolled out a pair of Iowa state legislative endorsements this week, said that her campaign has been building, “slowly, but surely,” and preparing to seize on the right moment. A “moment in a debate [is] pretty short-lived,” Klobuchar acknowledged. Those new endorsers “didn’t just go, ‘oh, we liked you in the debate!’ We had those in hand.”

“There’s room for people to know who I am now,” Klobuchar said. On Thursday, her campaign released a digital ad touting her track record of bipartisan successes.

A former Biden backer in the crowd for Klobuchar’s stop in Mason City Saturday agreed. Mary Lu Barnekow, a 79-year-old Democratic caucus-goer, said age was an important factor for her, and she “was for Biden” before deciding his age was “a concern.” Buttigieg, meanwhile, is “too young.”

Instead, Barnekow, clutching Klobuchar lawn signs and stickers, decided to caucus for Klobuchar after seeing her in person this weekend coming off last week’s debate.

“Biden is afraid to make waves, and since they have similar platforms, Amy will say what Biden is afraid to say,” said Bert Lange, a 49-year-old voter from Garner, Iowa, who said he was supportive of the senator. “I definitely felt like she did that in the debate.”

Buttigieg echoed Klobuchar’s commitment to building in-state infrastructure, calling his ground game “the biggest thing that we’ve got to do” to “back up a message that is resonating,” noting that his campaign boasts the most field offices in the state. He held a 900-person rally in Ames, Iowa last week.

But Buttigieg, who has continued to creep up in Iowa polling, also spent last week pushing back on criticism of tweets from 2018 showing him pledging support for Medicare for All, the policy he criticized vigorously in the debate.

Buttigieg defended his comments on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying: “Somewhere along the line this year, politicians started saying that it’s only Medicare for All if you eliminate all private coverage, which is why I now talk about my plan with the language of Medicare for all who want it.”

Buttigieg also faced criticism for planning to attend a fundraiser co-sponsored by Steve Patton, a former Chicago city attorney who led the effort to block the release of video showing the shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was killed by police officers.

Buttigieg called the misstep “frustrating,” adding, “I’m going to figure out how it happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Buttigieg returned Patton’s campaign contribution and removed him as a co-sponsor for the Chicago fundraiser.

Axelrod, who interviewed Buttigieg on stage at the University of Chicago, advised the candidate to take more care. “Hire one more” staffer, the Obama campaign veteran warned, and “put them on vetting.”

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