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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: 282916

Reported Deaths: 3359
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin605241095
Ramsey25467477
Anoka20172216
Dakota19573179
Washington12799108
Stearns1254793
Scott764754
St. Louis763197
Wright683036
Olmsted616033
Sherburne522339
Clay449655
Carver420912
Blue Earth379511
Rice377732
Kandiyohi365915
Crow Wing324131
Nobles298029
Chisago28838
Otter Tail273315
Benton269340
Winona251828
Mower239723
Polk230621
Douglas228929
Morrison215321
Lyon200011
McLeod19289
Beltrami190415
Goodhue180926
Becker178810
Steele17296
Itasca170524
Isanti170216
Todd167412
Carlton161310
Nicollet148223
Freeborn14195
Mille Lacs136530
Le Sueur135010
Waseca131811
Cass12368
Pine12216
Brown121110
Meeker11187
Roseau10143
Martin100620
Hubbard100022
Wabasha9351
Redwood82718
Dodge7980
Chippewa7907
Watonwan7884
Cottonwood7431
Renville73118
Sibley7224
Wadena7166
Aitkin69224
Rock6779
Pipestone67318
Houston6242
Fillmore6150
Yellow Medicine58211
Pennington5576
Murray5433
Kanabec54112
Swift5266
Pope4910
Faribault4901
Stevens4552
Clearwater4456
Marshall4377
Jackson4291
Lake3654
Unassigned35856
Koochiching3475
Wilkin3305
Lac qui Parle3213
Lincoln3171
Norman3166
Big Stone2801
Mahnomen2554
Grant2396
Red Lake1973
Kittson1876
Traverse1340
Lake of the Woods891
Cook600

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 216579

Reported Deaths: 2240
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk32244325
Linn13583162
Scott1055981
Black Hawk10541131
Woodbury9984116
Johnson920835
Dubuque886590
Story656619
Dallas611456
Pottawattamie589167
Sioux356425
Webster345831
Marshall339244
Cerro Gordo332342
Clinton312337
Buena Vista293514
Muscatine273968
Des Moines270616
Warren264810
Plymouth261938
Wapello244071
Jones225313
Jasper208440
Marion196719
Carroll192621
Lee191716
Bremer187212
Henry17257
Crawford170715
Benton162716
Tama149440
Jackson138511
Delaware137221
Washington135813
Boone130711
Dickinson128510
Mahaska123427
Wright11835
Buchanan11249
Clay10964
Hardin109310
Page10854
Hamilton10477
Clayton10455
Harrison102428
Calhoun10237
Cedar102213
Fayette10008
Mills9977
Floyd98614
Lyon9858
Kossuth9675
Poweshiek95512
Butler9375
Winneshiek91510
Iowa89611
Winnebago88023
Louisa82316
Hancock8217
Grundy81711
Sac8077
Chickasaw8014
Cherokee7814
Cass77221
Appanoose7509
Shelby7346
Allamakee73211
Guthrie72415
Humboldt7205
Mitchell7204
Union7166
Emmet71424
Franklin68820
Madison6614
Jefferson6441
Palo Alto6114
Unassigned5961
Keokuk5537
Pocahontas5442
Howard5089
Greene5070
Osceola5031
Clarke4644
Ida45510
Davis4415
Taylor4352
Montgomery43410
Monroe43112
Adair4218
Monona4032
Fremont3483
Van Buren3434
Worth3410
Lucas3166
Decatur3070
Wayne2896
Audubon2841
Ringgold1902
Adams1551
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