AMHERST, NH – The four Democratic presidential contenders marching in this New Hampshire town’s storied Independence Day parade took aim at Republican President Donald Trump over a much larger July 4th celebration he’s holding in the nation’s capital.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii – an Iraq War veteran – on Thursday slammed the president for holding a “Salute to America” event at the Lincoln Memorial on Independence Day.
“I think it dishonors our troops, dishonors our service members and veterans,” the congresswoman emphasized. “Because it’s really all about Trump. It’s not about our service members, it’s not about their sacrifices it’s not about my brothers and sisters who lost their lives in service to this country and that’s the most unfortunate thing.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York also fired away at Trump, telling reporters “I think it’s a waste of money, you know he’s having a parade for himself, putting tanks out there for himself, and if he really cares about The men and women of our nation he would be investing in higher pay, better housing, better healthcare.”
The tanks she referred to are M1A1 Abrams tanks, which will be part of the celebration. They were transported to the nation’s capital from Fort Stewart in Georgia.
Scores of Democratic lawmakers have criticized the Trump administration over politicizing a holiday that celebrates the nation’s independence from Great Britain, and over the reported $2.5 million the National Park Service is using to help cover the costs of Trump’s celebration. And there are concerns the weight of the tanks could crush the streets they’re rolling over during the festivities.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota vented that “it really bothered me what the president is doing with the tanks and hopefully the pavement is not going to buckle in Washington, D.C., and all of the money on that.”
Trump has defended the holding of the celebration, touting that it will be "the show of a lifetime!"
The July 4 holiday comes a week after the first round of Democratic presidential primary debates – which appear to have up-ended the nomination battle among a historic two-dozen White House hopefuls.
“I think it’s starting to reshape the race,” former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland told Fox News. “I do think things are starting to change in the race.”
What will also change are the thresholds for the candidates to make the debate stage for the third and fourth rounds in September and October.
The DNC announced in late May that to qualify for the third and fourth round of debates – which will be held in September and October – candidates must receive 2 percent or more support in at least four national or early voting state polls recognized by the national party.
The threshold for the first two rounds of debates is 1 percent in three polls. And candidates must also receive contributions from a minimum 130,000 unique donors, as well as 400 unique donors in at least 20 states. The 130,000 threshold is double the 65,000 needed to make the debate stage at the first two rounds, and the 400 donors in each state is double the 200 currently needed.
The DNC’s mandates to candidates to clear both the polling and donor hurdles is a switch from the first two rounds, when the contenders only had to hit one of the criteria.
Delaney argued that “I believe in the fullness of time that this is going to be viewed as a disastrous decision.”
Gabbard also took aim at the DNC, telling Fox News that the raising of the bar is “creating a situation where voters will have less choices…. I think the best thing for our democracy is to make sure that everybody’s got as much exposure as possible so that voters can make that choice for themselves.”
Klobuchar, who said she’s in good shape to reach the new criteria, defended the DNC.
“They have to have some criteria, because it’s hard for people to decide when there’s 20,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with them narrowing it down, as long as I’m still in it. It’s kind of a ‘Hunger Games’ situation.”
For the DNC, grappling with roughly two-dozen candidates is uncharted waters. The Democratic field easily tops the then-record 18 Republicans running for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez called the threshold-raising a normal procedure.
The Amherst parade, which attracts a bevy of White House hopefuls every for years, allows the candidates to showcase their retail politics skills - which are crucial in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire.
Minutes before marching, Delaney shared his parade strategy.
“I like to move around and just try to meet as many people as possible on the side of the parade, go back and forth.”
And with the temperatures steady climbing, Delaney acknowledged that “you know you get a little sweaty doing it, but you meet a lot of folks. And that’s kind of how I handle parades.”
Gillibrand had a similar strategy.
“My game plan is to shake as many hands as I can,” the senator shared.
But Gillibrand had a secret weapon – candy.
She emphasized that handing out candy to children “is the solution for a strong parade performance.”
Klobuchar touted that “I’m really good at running back and forth. We have done so many parades in our family because I started out in county office and we had 28 parades and I did nearly every single one of them.”
She said that her daughter “once wrote her confirmation essay for church and the theme was ‘when life gives you a parade, walk it.’”
Klobuchar’s parade philosophy – “the key is -who are you next to in a parade. You don’t want to be next to a horse because there can be droppings on the floor. I was once next to a snake zoo. That was unfortunate. You don’t to be next to a pig, as a politician, with pork and everything. So there’s a lot of judgement calls you make about where you are in a parade.”