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South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, both military veterans, clashed at the 5th Democratic debate Wednesday night after the representative questioned the mayor's military judgement.

What they're saying: Buttigieg and Gabbard had words over a recent quote from Buttigieg on sending troops to Mexico.

  • Gabbard stated: "Pete, you'll agree that the service that we both have provided to our country as veterans by itself does not qualify us to serve as commander in chief. I think the most recent example of your inexperience in national security and foreign policy came from your recent careless statement about how you as president would be willing to send our troops to Mexico to fight the cartels..."

Buttigieg struck back, accusing Gabbard of taking what he said out of context: "that is outlandish even by the standards of today's politics."

  • "I was talking about U.S.-Mexico cooperation. We've been doing security cooperation with Mexico for years, with law enforcement cooperation and a military relationship that could continue to be developed with training relationships, for example. Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is proposing invading Mexico?"

Reality check: Buttigieg did say at a Latino forum in Los Angeles on Sunday that he'd be willing to send troops into Mexico, but as a means for "security cooperation," the Sacramento Bee reports.

  • "I’d only order American troops into conflict if American lives were on the line and if it was necessary to meet treaty obligations," he added.

Go deeper:

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Actor Matthew McConaughey’s nine-point lead in a theoretical matchup against Greg Abbott shows just how vulnerable the hard-right Texas governor could be in a general election.

Why it matters: Abbott has won conservative accolades for his abortion, mask and vaccine bans. Axios reported Sunday that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to announce a gubernatorial challenge — but a recent poll shows he’s not even the most popular Democrat in the state.

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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

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Why it matters: Candidates are unsure if the district they're targeting will remain intact or be reshaped by the process. The uncertainty is especially vexing to Democrats, who are vying to maintain their narrow margin in the House.

First look: Conservatives' 2022 big target: Tax increases

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Conservative groups are unveiling huge ad-buys going after vulnerable House Democrats over tax increases and other revenue measures in their party's massive infrastructure spending bill, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: President Biden and Democrats have an immense amount of political capital riding on a $3.5 trillion bill facing razor-thin margins in both chambers. Conservatives are running ads targeting the House members who leaders will need to pass the measure.