By Trevor Hunnicutt
LAS VEGAS – Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Saturday that Mike Bloomberg would not generate the “excitement and energy” needed to win the White House, focusing on a rival still not fully participating in the race.
“The simple truth is that 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 at a Democratic party gala.
Sanders, eager to build on winning New Hampshire and a photo-finish for first place in Iowa, mentioned only the billionaire former New York City mayor among his competitors in a Las Vegas speech. He was critical of Bloomberg’s stances on minimum wage laws, policing, taxing the rich and regulating Wall Street.
Nevada will hold on Feb. 22 the next contest in the state-by-state race to pick a Democratic opponent for Republican President Trump in November’s election.
Bloomberg was not at the Las Vegas event and is not competing in Nevada. He is focusing on states that vote starting March 3 on what is known as “Super Tuesday,” including Virginia, where Bloomberg campaigned on Saturday.
Bloomberg campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said Bloomberg raised taxes on the wealthy when he was mayor. “As president, Mike will raise rates on high-income earners, tax capital income more equitably, close loopholes, and bolster enforcement,” she said. “He will get it done because he’s done it before.”
Sanders’ remarks appeared dismissive of other candidates who did speak at the forum. They included former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who raced Sanders to a photo-finish in Iowa and trailed him narrowly in New Hampshire earlier this month.
In his speech, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden criticized Sanders, though not by name, for the senator’s prior support for a law shielding gun manufacturers from liability for mass shootings.
Earlier in the day, Biden taped an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” where he said Sanders should “disown” some supporters for attacks on the senator’s critics.
Most of the other candidates avoided confrontations.
“The bad news is, after more than 100,000 selfies, I picked up somebody’s cold,” candidate Elizabeth Warren told the crowd, her voice cracking. “The good news is, ‘nevertheless she persists.’ I’m on this stage tonight because I am a fighter.”
Early voting started in Nevada on Saturday, with 11,800 Democrats participating. One party official characterized turnout as higher than expected.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Lisa Shumaker)