By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg wore a black suit, white shirt and blue tie to Thursday's sixth Democratic debate in Los Angeles, but he might has well have had a bullseye on his back. He more than withstood two withering attacks from U.S. Sens. Amy Klobachar and Elizabeth Warren, more evidence he has joined the ranks of the frontrunners born out by recent Iowa polling. 

"I think winning matters," Klobuchar said. "I think a track record of getting things done matters. And I also think showing our party that we can actually bring people with us, have a wider tent, have a bigger coalition and, yes, longer coattails, that matters." Buttigieg quickly said, "I gotta respond to that. Senator, I know that if you just go by vote totals, maybe what goes on in my city seems small to you. If you want to talk about the capacity to win? Try putting together a coalition to bring you back to office with 88% of the vote as a gay dude in Mike Pence's Indiana." 

Klobachar responded, "Mayor, if you had won in Indiana that would be one thing. You tried and you lost by 20 points." That was in reference to Buttigieg's 2010 race where he lost to Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock a year before he ran for mayor of South Bend. 

Warren took aim, saying, “So the mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine,” she said. “Think about who comes to that. He had promised that every fundraiser he would do would be open door, but this one was closed door. We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States. Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.” 

“Can’t help but feel that might have been directed at me,” Buttigieg told Warren. Buttigieg noted that, "according to Forbes magazine, I am literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire." And he warned Warren against "issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass." He added, “If you can’t say, 'No' to a donor, then you have no business running in the first place. Did it corrupt you, Senator? Of course not. So to denounce the same kind of fundraising guidelines that President Obama went by, that Speaker Pelosi goes by, that you yourself went by until not long ago, in order to build the Democratic Party and build a campaign ready for the fight of our lives, these purity tests shrink the stakes of the most important election.” 

The Buttigieg campaign cited a New York Times story that revealed that “Ms. Warren wooed wealthy donors for years, stockpiling money from fundraisers, and has used $10.4 million from her 2018 Senate race to underwrite her 2020 bid. The open secret of Ms. Warren’s campaign is that her big-money fund-raising through 2018 helped lay the foundation for her anti-big-money run for the presidency."

Buttigieg got high marks for the debate. CNN’s Dana Bash observed, "The thing that was most striking is that Pete Buttigieg … he did get the incoming in the second half, but he also was ready for it. Every single issue that he was hit on -- Elizabeth Warren on the fundraising and other issues like his experience, with Amy Klobuchar -- he was ready, he hit back." 

The Washington Posts’ Robert Costa said, “They see Pete as a real threat now … he is a viable contender for the Democratic nomination.” Former Sen. Claire McCaskill said on MSNBC,  “What Pete has tried to do is be a legitimate outsider. And you can't blame him for campaigning against Washington. I mean, everybody in the country thinks Washington cannot figure it out. And so that's the dynamic that was set up here. But I actually thought Pete did a good job...he was very effective.”

The general consensus is that national frontrunner Joe Biden had his best debate while Sen. Klobachar may have had her "breakout" moment, but Buttieig augmented the perception that he is an Iowa frontrunner. The latest Iowa State University–Civiqs poll finds Buttigieg at 24%, followed by Sanders at 21%, Warren at 18% and former Vice President Joe Biden at 15%. The RealClearPolitics average of Iowa polls finds Buttigieg at 22%, followed by Sanders at 20%, Biden at 18% and Warren at 16%. Many voters remain undecided, and Warren is the top second choice for voters, at 20%, Sanders at 14%, Biden at 13% and Buttigieg at 10%.