June 18, 2024

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Sanders Calls Race Against Biden a ‘Conflict of Ideas’

(Bloomberg) — Bernie Sanders went on the offensive against Joe Biden Wednesday, framing the primary fight for the Democratic nomination as a “conflict of ideas” that pits his outsider campaign against the political status quo.

Speaking the day after a disappointing performance on Super Tuesday, Sanders struck a defiant tone, railing against the political establishment and the media. He stuck closely to his core message and did not seek to moderate it to invite more supporters into his campaign.

“Joe and I have a very different voting record,” Sanders said at the news conference. “Joe and I have a very different vision for the future of this country. And Joe and I are running very different campaigns. And my hope is that in the coming months, we will be able to debate and discuss the very significant differences that we have.”

Sanders parsed Biden’s record, critiquing his support for the Iraq War and the Wall Street rescue during the 2008 financial crisis. He also highlighted their differences on health care — Sanders supports Medicare for All and Biden wants to add a public option. And he ticked off Biden’s past calls for cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicaid.

Sanders, who is relying on grassroots donations to fund his campaign, said Biden “is running a campaign that is heavily supported by the corporate establishment,” adding that the former vice president is backed by “60 billionaires.”

The Sanders campaign still has an advantage in funding thanks to its grassroots donor base. It announced Wednesday evening that it has raised $5.5 million from more than 220,000 donations since Super Tuesday. But the Biden campaign announced that it had taken in $7 million in that period.

The Vermont senator hit Biden for his support of trade deals that he says have had “disastrous” impacts in the Midwest. Sanders will be campaigning in Michigan this weekend, and he said Biden will have to answer for his record on trade.

Biden won 10 of the 14 states that voted on Super Tuesday and opened up a delegate lead over Sanders, who won his home state of Vermont, along with California, Utah and Colorado. As final Super Tuesday results were coming in, Biden had 512 delegates and Sanders had 441.

Sanders acknowledged he was disappointed in the results, particularly the campaign’s struggle to bring new voters into the fold, something he has long argued he was best positioned to do.

Sanders’s progressive rival, Elizabeth Warren, failed to win a single state, including her home state of Massachusetts. Sanders said he spoke to her on Wednesday morning and she told him that she was still assessing her campaign’s path forward.

Many progressives have criticized her decision to stay in the race and her failure to consolidate support with Sanders after the moderate candidates coalesced behind Biden. Sanders did not say whether he asked for her support, but he and his campaign have been careful to not call for her exit.

The Biden campaign has pushed for Democrats to unify and warned against Sanders’ aggressive campaigning style that left Hillary Clinton’s team and others believing he damaged her for the general election against Trump.

“We’ve seen unfortunately the kind of campaigns that Bernie Sanders runs,” deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told reporters on Wednesday. “We need to unite.”

Cedric Richmond, a Biden campaign co-chair and Louisiana congressman, warned “we can’t divide this party like we did the last time,” calling out Sanders for releasing three negative ads on Biden on Wednesday morning. “As he rails against the establishment, I just didn’t know that African Americans in the South were considered the establishment,” he said.

Sanders firmly rejected the notion that he would run a personal and nasty campaign.

“Joe is a decent guy and I do not want this campaign to generate into a Trump type effort where we are attacking each other, where it is personal attacks,” Sanders said. “That is the last thing this country wants.”

However, one Sanders ad, featuring former President Barack Obama praising the candidate that was released Wednesday morning, seemed especially aggressive to the Biden team, given that Sanders was often critical of Obama while he was in office and has attacked his administration’s achievements as insufficient.

“As recent history has proven, no quantity of ads can rewrite history – and there’s no substitute for genuinely having the back of the best president of our lifetimes,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said, hinting at the hundreds of millions of dollars that Michael Bloomberg, who dropped out of the race Wednesday, and Tom Steyer, who quit after the South Carolina primary, spent on advertising.

(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

When asked about the new advertisement on Wednesday, Sanders said he is not pretending that he and Obama were “best friends,” but he put out the advertisement to demonstrate his working relationship with the former president.

“I wanted to make it clear because there’s a lot of dishonest statements about my relationship with Obama,” he said.

(Updates with Biden fundraising, in sixth paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Tyler Pager in Burlington, Vermont at [email protected];Jennifer Epstein in Los Angeles at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at [email protected], Max Berley, John Harney

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