Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders has long identified his chief political adversaries as “millionaires and billionaires.”
But in Las Vegas on Saturday night, the U.S. senator from Vermont mentioned a specific name: Michael Bloomberg.
The setting was the Nevada Democratic Party’s “Kick-Off to Caucus” gala that followed the launch of early voting in the state ahead of its Feb. 22 scheduled primary caucuses. Saturday’s early-vote turnout of nearly 12,000 was higher than expected, a party official told Reuters.
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Though other Democrats attended the gala and spoke as well, Sanders kept his focus squarely on Bloomberg, who was across the country in Virginia, Reuters reported.
The Nevada caucuses will mark the first appearance of Bloomberg’s name on a primary ballot – after the former mayor of New York City opted to skip the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses and Feb. 10 New Hampshire primary — two contests that Sanders won, placing him at the head of the Democratic field, which includes former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Looking to maintain that frontrunner status, Sanders in Nevada made the argument that Bloomberg – who launched his campaign late but is fueling it with his own seemingly limitless personal resources – cannot beat President Trump in November.
“We will not create the energy and excitement we need to defeat Donald Trump if that candidate [Bloomberg] pursued, advocated for, and enacted racist policies like stop-and-frisk, which caused communities of color in his city to live in fear,” Sanders said.
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“We will not defeat Donald Trump with a candidate who in 2015 stated, and I quote, ‘I, for example, am not in favor, have never been in favor, of raising the minimum wage.’”
Further remarks from Sanders were aimed at Bloomberg’s opposition to Barack Obama’s tax increases on the wealthy, his support for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and what Sanders said was Bloomberg’s insistence that the 2007-09 financial crisis was caused by the end of the banking practice of “red-lining” – thuse making loans more accessible to low-income people — rather than the misdeeds of “crooks on Wall Street.”
Then Sanders delivered what may have been the ultimate blow: He accused Bloomberg of being boring.
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“Mayor Bloomberg, with all his money, will not create the kind of excitement and energy we need to have the voter turnout we must have to defeat Donald Trump,” Sanders said.
“Mayor Bloomberg, with all his money, will not create the kind of excitement and energy we need to have the voter turnout we must have to defeat Donald Trump.”
A desire to slow the Bloomberg Express – which has seen the candidate spend big on TV ads and campaign staff, as well as attract key endorsements around the country – is something that Sanders and other Democrats running for president have in common with the current office holder.
Trump has been relentless in slamming Bloomberg on social media, dubbing him “Mini Mike” in reference to the former mayor’s 5-foot-8 height compared to Trump’s 6-foot-3 stature.
Bloomberg, for his part, punched back at the president this week, referring to him as a “carnival barking clown” who had squandered a family inheritance on “stupid deals and incompetence.”
But Bloomberg has also had to deal with problems he created for himself, such as stop-and-frisk. The anti-crime policy appeared to work for Bloomberg when he was a Republican, but now that he has converted to a Democrat he has been under pressure to atone for what many perceive was an inherently racist policy that too often victimized African-Americans.
In recent days, Bloomberg has had to apologize for his past support for the policy – as videos of past remarks have surfaced – or has had to claim that his views have evolved, over time, against the policy.
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Another potential problem area for Bloomberg: allegations of past demeaning remarks against his female employees, including a charge that he once called for a pregnant employee to get an abortion. Bloomberg has denied the allegations.
Before Nevada Democrats head to the polls next Saturday, they will receive a Friday visit from President Trump, who is scheduled to hold a “Keep America Great” rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center, FOX 5 of Las Vegas reported.
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