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5 takeaways from CNN's town halls with Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar

During a CNN town hall in Nevada, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) addressed the need for gun reform and spoke about her "saddest day in Washington."

Posted: Feb 19, 2020 5:20 AM
Updated: Feb 19, 2020 5:20 AM

On the eve of their next presidential primary debate, three Democratic contenders grappled with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's presence on the stage for the first time.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders previewed an attack on Bloomberg for supporting policies such as stop-and-frisk policing. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar criticized him for skipping the trudge of town halls and policy rollouts that the presidential campaign trail demands of most contenders. And former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Bloomberg is attempting to buy the election.

The three candidates also focused on President Donald Trump on Tuesday night, with Buttigieg lambasting Trump for paying "hush money to a porn star."

Here are five takeaways from their town halls:

What to do with Bloomberg's money?

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's hundreds of millions of dollars in television advertising has vaulted him into Wednesday night's upcoming Democratic debate. It's also raised questions about how other Democrats would handle Bloomberg's willingness to spend heavily to defeat Trump if they're the nominee.

On Tuesday night, the three candidates with town halls criticized Bloomberg for skipping the first four contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, where he hasn't been or won't be on the ballot.

Buttigieg said he'd take Bloomberg's money. But he also said Bloomberg is attempting to buy the election.

"I mean, what else do you call it? What else do you call it when you dip into your endless reserves of millions and billions and don't go through the process of campaigning," he said.

Sanders called Bloomberg's strategy of skipping the first four states "obscene" and said the former New York mayor was trying to "buy the presidency."

But he didn't answer a question about whether he would accept hundreds of millions of dollars in help from Bloomberg if the Vermont senator becomes the Democratic nominee. Sanders touted raising seven million individual contributions, averaging $18.15 from a broad base of Americans.

"There is a point at which money ceases to be significant," he said. "We will have enough money to run a strong campaign. We will have enough money to defeat Donald Trump."

Klobuchar said she's glad Bloomberg will be on stage for the upcoming Democratic debate Wednesday night in Nevada.

"I actually thought he should be on the debate stage because I don't think you should just be able to buy your way to the presidency," she said.

Sanders: 'I do not believe in online bullying'

Sanders sought to fully divorce himself from supporters who have harassed others online and questioned whether anyone who believes in his agenda would attack a union leader.

Top officials at the Culinary Union in Nevada accused Sanders backers of swarming them online after flyers distributed by the union, which said Sanders would "end" their health care, went viral.

Sanders also questioned whether some of the social media comments cited by critics were, in fact, written by his supporters.

"The idea that anybody who works with me would make a vicious attack against a union leader just because we disagree on an issue is incomprehensible to me," Sanders said, "and you know what, I'm just not sure that that's true."

On the broader issue, Sanders was -- in his final point on the question -- unequivocal.

"I do not believe in online bullying," he said. "End of discussion."

'Having to send hush money to a porn star'

Buttigieg excoriated Donald Trump and one of his most high-profile supporters for questioning his marriage to his husband, Chasten, on Tuesday, telling an audience in Las Vegas that his marriage "never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star."

Buttigieg is referring to $130,000 in payments arranged by Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Stephanie Clifford, a porn star known as Stormy Daniels who says she and Trump had an affair in 2006 after Trump married his wife Melania. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels, but admitted in 2018 that he knew of the payments "later on."

The comments also come days after radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners that American voters are "still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president." Limbaugh said on Tuesday that Trump, who initially responded to the host's comments by saying he would not be uncomfortable with a gay president, told him to "never apologize" for his comments about Buttigieg.

"The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values," Buttigieg said, before pausing for cheers and applause.

"I'm sorry but one thing about my marriage is it's never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse, with him or her," Buttigieg said. "So, if they want to debate family values, let's debate family values, I'm ready."

Sanders won't release more medical records

Late last December, three months after he suffered a heart attack in Las Vegas, Sanders released three letters from physicians attesting to his good health.

On Tuesday night, Sanders said that if anyone wants any more information about his health, they should join him on the campaign trail, where he keeps a busy schedule.

Sanders argued that the letters, including one from the attending physician at the US Capitol, amounted to a "detailed report" and, when pressed on whether he would release new details, said, "I don't think we will."

On October 1, Sanders was rushed to an urgent care facility following a grassroots fundraiser in Las Vegas after experiencing chest pains. Sanders then was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and remained there for days before returning home to recuperate.

He was back on the campaign trail about two weeks after he initially fell ill.

Klobuchar talks 'institutional racism'

Klobuchar, who before running for Senate worked as county attorney for Minnesota's largest county, defended her criminal justice record on Tuesday, telling voters in Nevada that "anyone that's worked in the criminal justice system knows there's institutional racism."

The issue is a growing one for Klobuchar: Her rise in the Democratic nominating process has coincided with more scrutiny on her record as county attorney for Hennepin County, including the case of Myon Burrell, a teenager who was sentenced to life for the killing of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards but now, with the backing of new evidence, insists he is innocent.

"Over the years, I think we have seen just how devastating that is," Klobuchar said of racism in the judicial system. "And when I was there, I worked hard on, for instance, doing more when it came to white collar crime, doing more with drug courts. And while here were still disparities in our system, like there were any, we had still managed in the eight years to reduce the African-American incarceration rate by 12%."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 485655

Reported Deaths: 6558
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1007641586
Ramsey43106801
Dakota36297390
Anoka33293385
Washington22078256
Stearns18734201
St. Louis14805262
Scott13290107
Wright12526115
Olmsted1178988
Sherburne872872
Carver772640
Clay691587
Rice670491
Blue Earth594735
Kandiyohi579574
Crow Wing520681
Chisago499045
Otter Tail482170
Benton446490
Winona418349
Mower404731
Douglas392668
Nobles387047
Goodhue385768
Polk343162
McLeod339349
Beltrami337951
Morrison324547
Itasca313046
Lyon313044
Becker311342
Isanti306154
Steele300411
Carlton300149
Pine282016
Freeborn280723
Nicollet258641
Todd248030
Brown245037
Le Sueur235320
Mille Lacs227447
Cass220024
Waseca208717
Meeker207434
Martin189528
Wabasha18653
Roseau180217
Hubbard160640
Houston157314
Dodge15224
Renville149640
Redwood147027
Fillmore13728
Chippewa136335
Cottonwood134820
Pennington134416
Wadena130920
Faribault123017
Aitkin118833
Sibley117310
Watonwan11738
Rock115714
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9448
Jackson93510
Swift87918
Pope8045
Marshall77815
Stevens7418
Lake74018
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68416
Wilkin67110
Koochiching61811
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5062
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned46768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3055
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 362827

Reported Deaths: 5440
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58260551
Linn20670313
Scott18318210
Black Hawk16258292
Woodbury14979211
Johnson1384874
Dubuque13562194
Dallas1138690
Pottawattamie10791143
Story1024945
Warren556674
Clinton543784
Cerro Gordo533782
Webster519587
Marshall497272
Sioux494869
Buena Vista474537
Des Moines458861
Muscatine452291
Wapello4345108
Jasper417766
Plymouth395378
Lee375452
Marion359169
Jones294154
Henry293337
Carroll286249
Bremer280854
Crawford275135
Boone259730
Washington254347
Benton253854
Mahaska224746
Jackson221638
Dickinson217840
Tama213765
Kossuth208555
Clay193625
Hamilton192142
Delaware189140
Winneshiek189127
Buchanan185729
Fayette185235
Page183319
Hardin181439
Wright179931
Harrison179469
Cedar178523
Clayton168154
Butler167231
Mills163020
Floyd162741
Cherokee154836
Madison154718
Poweshiek154330
Hancock147130
Allamakee146747
Lyon145941
Iowa145023
Appanoose139247
Grundy139230
Jefferson138734
Winnebago138631
Cass134751
Calhoun133811
Mitchell130940
Louisa128241
Union126631
Chickasaw125215
Sac124618
Emmet121740
Shelby121733
Franklin118319
Humboldt117925
Guthrie116628
Palo Alto105221
Montgomery104136
Howard102921
Clarke100420
Unassigned9900
Keokuk98229
Monroe93328
Adair92128
Ida91432
Pocahontas85419
Davis83123
Monona81627
Greene77510
Lucas74021
Osceola70615
Worth6997
Taylor66612
Fremont5909
Decatur5829
Van Buren56118
Ringgold52320
Wayne48921
Audubon4889
Adams3274
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