The two top candidates vying for Democratic caucus delegates in Nevada criticized their opponents at a kickoff dinner in Las Vegas on Saturday, the first day of early voting.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders slammed former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for some of his policies, and said he wouldn’t bring the excitement to the race needed to drive up voter turnout. And former Vice President Joe Biden criticized Sanders over his vote on gun manufacturers’ legal liability and his stance on “Medicare for All.”
Sanders and Biden finished at the top of The Nevada Poll™, conducted by the Review-Journal and AARP Nevada, with 25 percent and 18 percent respectively.
Sanders said first he had “absolute confidence” that the party would coalesce around the eventual nominee. But he quickly made clear he didn’t believe that candidate was Bloomberg.
“Regardless of how much money a multi-billionare candidate is willing to spend on his election, we will not create the energy or excitement we need to defeat Donald Trump if that candidate 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.
“We will not defeat Donald Trump with a candidate who opposed modest proposals during Barack Obama’s presidency to raise taxes on the wealthy while advocating for cuts to Medicare and Social Security,” he added. “We will not defeat Donald Trump with a candidate who instead of holding Wall Street banks accountable, blamed the end of racist policies such as redlining for the financial crisis.”
Bloomberg has apologized repeatedly for the “stop and frisk” policy that was conceived as a way to reduce gun violence in New York City, but which critics said resulted in racially discriminatory enforcement.
When Biden took the stage, he lamented the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting and the “carnage” in the streets caused by gun violence and reminded the audience he went up against the National Rifle Association in passing the assault weapons ban in the 1990s.
While never mentioning Sanders by name, Biden criticized the legal immunity enjoyed by gun makers, which Sanders supported.
“And guess what? Gun manufacturers are the only industry in America that’s exempt from being able to be sued. The only one!” Biden said. “And they were given that exemption in 2005. And some of the people running for office voted for that exemption.”
Biden pledged, if elected, to reverse the law, which he called a “horrible, horrible decision.”
He also slammed Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren over health care, saying their Medicare for All plans would erase private health coverage and the gains won under the Affordable Care Act, which he helped pass.
“We have to defend Obamacare, not get rid of Obamacare,” Biden said. “Trump is trying to destroy it, trying to get rid of it in court. And some of our Democrats running want to get rid of it. I’m not going to let that happen.”
Early voting in the Democratic caucus continues through Tuesday, and caucus day takes place Saturday.
Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.