Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is being unusually direct in attacking some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In a speech in Carson City on Sunday, Sanders spent most of his time lacerating billionaire and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is spending hundreds of millions of his own money on ads.
“He thinks he can buy this election,” Sanders said of the former New York mayor. “Well, I’ve got news for Mr. Bloomberg — the American people are sick and tired of billionaires buying elections!”
Sanders said Bloomberg is “trying to buy the presidency” and that Bloomberg was bored and decided he wanted to be president.
Sanders also singled out by name former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg as two other candidates who raise money from billionaires. He also slammed what he called the corporate, media, GOP and Democratic establishments for trying to stand in his way.
Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar all targeted billionaire Bloomberg in campagin stops in the Silver State, accusing him of buying his way into the election and making clear they were eager to take him on in a debate.
Their attacks are a sign of how seriously the field is starting to take Bloomberg as he gains traction in the race, having qualified for Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Bloomberg has bypassed the traditional early voting states including Nevada, focusing instead on the 14 states that vote in the Super Tuesday primary March 3. He has spent more than $417 million of his own multibillion-dollar fortune on advertising nationwide, an unprecedented sum for any candidate in a primary.
The focus on Bloomberg comes amid anxiety among many establishment-aligned Democrats over the early strength of Sanders, who won last week’s New Hampshire primary and essentially tied for first place in Iowa with Buttigieg. Sanders is hoping to notch a victory in Nevada on Saturday as moderates struggle to unite behind a candidate who could serve as a counter to the Vermont senator, who has long identified as a democratic socialist.
The hundreds of millions of dollars that Bloomberg has pumped into the Super Tuesday states has only heightened the sense of uncertainty surrounding the Democratic race.
At Sanders’ rally, the crowded cheered as the Vermont senator joked that Bloomberg is “struggling, he’s down to his last $60 billion,” and derided him for skipping the early primary states.
It marked an escalation of the salvo Sanders launched Saturday against the former mayor, when he ticked off a litany of conservative positions Bloomberg has taken in the past, including opposing a minimum wage hike and his opposition to a number of Barack Obama’s policies while president. On Saturday, Sanders suggested the former mayor’s past conservatism and controversial comments make him a weak candidate against President Donald Trump, charging that Bloomberg, “with all his money, will not create the kind of excitement and energy we need” to beat Trump.
And on Sunday, he was joined by the current mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, who just this week endorsed Sanders. De Blasio introduced Sanders with an attack of his own on his predecessor, telling the crowd, “I’m sorry to report to you the chief proponent of stop and frisk is now running for president.”