Rivals pile on Elizabeth Warren at Democratic debate

The Massachusetts Democrat became the main target of attacks after her recent rise in the polls.

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By Dareh Gregorian

Sen. Elizabeth Warren entered Tuesday night's Democratic presidential primary debate as a leading candidate in the race — and the bull's-eye on her back became a target for the others on the stage.

Warren took repeated shots from lower-tier candidates, including several from Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who accused Warren of being deceitful by not acknowledging her Medicare for All plan would raise taxes on the middle class, as Sen. Bernie Sanders admitted.

"At least Bernie's being honest here and saying how he's going to pay for this and that taxes are going to go up. And I'm sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that, and I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we're going to send the invoice," Klobuchar said.

She also noted that under Warren's plan, 149 million people would lose their private health insurance in the transition — and then turned one of Warren's line against her.

"I'm tired of hearing, whenever I say these things, 'Oh, it's Republican talking points.' You are making republican talking points right now in this room by coming out for a plan that's going to do that," she said.

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Klobuchar also suggested that Warren would never be able to get her plan through Congress, while Klobuchar said she could.

"The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done," the Minnesota senator said.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg also accused Warren of dodging the question, saying, "This is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general."

He also said Warren didn't have a clear way to pay for her health plan.

"Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything — except this," Buttigieg said.

Warren seemed prepared for the attacks, and was quick to return fire, calling Buttigieg's plan, "Medicare for all who can afford it."

Even former Vice President Joe Biden, who's just been passed in some polls by Warren, later joined in, criticizing both Warren and Sanders for being "vague" about how they'd pay for Medicare for All. He also said he helped get votes to establish Warren's brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

"I am deeply grateful to President Obama who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law, and am deeply grateful for every single person who fought for it," Warren responded, declining to acknowledge Biden's effort.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California also joined in on the pile-on, pushing Warren to join in calling on Twitter to boot President Donald Trump. Warren declined, and said she doesn't want to push him off of Twitter, adding "I want him out of the White House."

In all, NBC's debate attack tracker showed that Warren had been hit with the most shots by far from the other candidates — 16. The most any other candidate was attacked was twice, the tracker showed. The most frequent attackers in the debate were Klobuchar with 14 and Buttigieg and Biden with 11 each, NBC found.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke offered that Warren's tax-the-rich talk sounded too tough, and that she's more focused "on being punitive" than "lifting people up."

"I'm shocked at the notion anyone thinks I'm punitive," Warren said.