LAS VEGAS – Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Saturday 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 momentum after 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 event in Las Vegas and is not competing in Nevada. He is choosing instead to focus on states that vote starting on March 3’s “Super Tuesday,” including Virginia, where Bloomberg campaigned on Saturday. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of normal working hours.
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 the Iowa caucus and trailed him only narrowly in New Hampshire earlier this month.
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden criticized Sanders, though not by name, in his own speech for Sanders’ prior support of a law shielding gun manufacturers from some 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 aggressive attacks on the senator’s critics.
Most of the other candidates avoided confrontations despite just a week until Nevada’s caucus.
“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 and barely audible. “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