From left, Democratic president candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stand together before the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Democrats use Iowa event to attack Trump _ not each other

August 09, 2019 - 6:19 pm

CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) — The crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates descended Friday night on a small town in northern Iowa, delighting a raucous crowd of activists and operatives by largely attacking President Donald Trump rather than each other.

Some of the loudest applause at the Wing Ding fundraiser came for Mayor Pete Buttigeig of South Bend, Indiana, who accused the president of "coddling white nationalism" and mocked Trump's background in television, saying he wasn't sure if its current occupant had turned the White House into a "reality show" or a "horror show."

"What we're going to do is pick up the remote and change the channel," Buttigeig, the youngest presidential candidate, proclaimed to sustained applause.

Once a low-key fundraiser that served up chicken wings and raised money for Democratic candidates and nearby county parties, the event has grown in stature. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of neighboring Minnesota, poked fun at the parade of candidates taking the stage one after another and forcing everyone to keep their speeches short: "Last time I had 20 minutes, and this time I have 20 candidates."

The candidates overlapped with messages of how Trump had spread hate and fear nationwide. But a few also offered stern warnings that topping the president in 2020 will be tough for any candidate.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the U.S. is "embarrassed and ashamed" by Trump's "incoherent behavior on the world stage," only to add that he still may win a second term.

Hickenlooper said Trump's approval rating was at about 42 percent, just a tad lower than Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama before they won re-election. He also said neither Reagan nor Obama had "an economy as strong as the one today."

Hickenlooper said the Democrats need to look at the nation's history to beat Trump and swiped at the numerous senators seeking the White House, saying no senator has ever beaten a sitting president — only former governors have.

But most of the others played nice, a departure from two rounds of past debates that featured frequent clashes.

Iowa is also getting its first look at billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, who only recently joined the race. Steyer said he alone could challenge a fellow rich man like Trump, exposing his "pattern of fraud."

The candidates also consistently blamed Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, like the ones in Ohio and Texas last week.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke canceled his Iowa visit to remain in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, where 22 died. His campaign will remain suspended through the weekend and perhaps beyond.

"We've been asked a couple of times by folks when we're gonna get back on the campaign trail. We will at some point. We really want to be here right now for El Paso, for the families," O'Rourke said in a Facebook video from his home Friday.

O'Rourke also appeared in a somber video at Friday's event.

"I'm sad that I can't be with you in person," he said. "I hope to see you in the very near future."