(CNSNews.com) - The NBC-sponsored debate on Wednesday night was more raucous than previous face-offs, as the Democrats picked mostly on each other -- not on President Donald Trump.
Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar starred in several of the heated exchanges:
"I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete," Klobuchar said in one round, when the topic was immigration. "But let me tell you what it is like to be in the arena."
(Klobuchar often speaks of being "in the arena," a reference to her tenure as senator from Minnesota.)
Buttigieg shot back: "Maybe leading a diverse city that was facing ruin doesn't sound like the arena to you. I'm used to senators telling mayors that senators are more important than mayors. But this is arena, too. You don't have to be in Washington to matter."
Klobuchar declared herself "very proud" of the work she's done on immigration reform -- although none of the bills she worked on years ago passed.
"And you know what?" she asked Buttigieg. "You have not been in the arena doing that work. You've memorized a bunch of talking points and a bunch of things. But I can tell you one thing. What the people of this country want, they want a leader that has the heart for the immigrants of this country. And that is me."
Here is a partial transcript of their gloves-off exchange:
Klobuchar was asked, "What exactly is your plan to protect the Dreamers permanently?"
"To win," Klobuchar said. "To beat Donald Trump. The best way to protect the Dreamers is to have a new president. There are the votes there to protect the Dreamers, and I have been working this since I got to the United States Senate.
"In my first campaign, I actually had a bunch of ads run against me because I was standing up for immigrants."
Klobuchar called the Dreamers "our future" and "so important in Nevada," where, not coincidentally, the debate was taking place.
Klobuchar indicated that defeating Trump would allow passage of comprehensive immigration reform, "which creates a path to citizenship to so many hard-working people, would bring down the deficit by $158 billion and will bring peace for these Dreamers who know no other country but our own."
Buttigieg told Klobuchar she has to own her Senate voting record. He noted that Klobuchar voted to confirm Trump's head of Customs and Border Protection "who was one of the architects of the family separation policy."
You voted to make English the national language. Do you know message that sends in as multilingual a state as Nevada to immigrants?
You have been unusual among Democrats, I think the Democrat among all of the senators running for president, most likely to vote for Donald Trump's judges, who we know are especially hostile to Dreamers and to the rights of immigrants.
Now, in South Bend, it was not always easy to stand up in a conservative place like Indiana on immigration. But we delivered. We created a municipal I.D. program so that Dreamers and others who were undocumented were able to navigate everyday life. We stood up for those rights and stood with members of our community with the message that they were as American as we are.
(Buttigieg broke into Spanish, but Klobuchar cut him off.)
"I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete. But let me tell you what it is like to be in the arena," Klobuchar said:
Number one, do the math. If my friend Andrew Yang was up here, that's what he would say. In fact, I have opposed, not supported, two-thirds of the Trump judges. So get your numbers right. And I am in the top 10 to 15 of opposing them.
Number two. When it comes to immigration reform, the things that you are referring to, that official that you're referring to, was supported by about half the Democrats, including someone in this room. And I will say this. He was highly recommended by the Obama officials. Do you know why? Because Trump had so few career people.
I did not one bit agree with these draconian policies to separate kids from their parents. And in my first 100 days, I would immediately change that. And I would add one more thing. I have been in the arena. Ted Kennedy --
(As the moderator tried to break in, Klobuchar wasn't having it. Pointing to Buttigieg, she said, "he had made a pretty big allegation against me again and I think I should have a right to respond." Buttigieg tried to return to Klobuchar's voting record, but he was interrupted.)
"First of all, what you've said about the judges are false," an angry Klobuchar said:
You are comparing me to two colleagues up here on this stage and you are forgetting one thing. ...If you could let me finish, since I've been in the arena. Ted Kennedy asked me to work on the first immigration bill. We were able with president bush to at least get to it a vote.
I'm sorry, but Senator Sanders opposed that bill, and I worked on it. If we had gotten that bill done, there would have been a path to citizenship for so many people. Then I worked on the 2013 bill. I'm so proud of the work I've done on immigration reform.
And you know what? You have not been in the arena doing that work. You've memorized a bunch of talking points and a bunch of things. But I can tell you one thing. With the people of this country want, they want a leader that has the heart for the immigrants of this country. And that is me.
Buttigieg shot back: "Maybe leading a diverse city that was facing ruin doesn't sound like the arena to you. I'm used to senators telling mayor that's senators are more important than mayors. But this is arena, too. You don't have to be in Washington to matter. You don't have to be on Capitol Hill--"
"Guys, guys," moderator Chuck Todd said, trying to stop the bickering. "We are at the end here," he said.