Bi­den wel­comes Bloomberg run

Says he has ‘no prob­lem’ with a bid by ex-NYC mayor

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page - By Bill Bar­row and Hunter Woodall

For­mer vice pres­i­dent says he has “no prob­lem” with for­mer New York City mayor’s pres­i­den­tial bid.

CON­CORD, N.H. — Joe Bi­den said Fri­day that he wel­comes the pos­si­bil­ity of bil­lion­aire Michael Bloomberg join­ing the crowded pres­i­den­tial field seek­ing the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion.

“Michael’s a solid guy, and let’s see where it goes,” Bi­den told re­porters af­ter fil­ing paper­work to run in New Hamp­shire’s first-inthe-na­tion pri­mary in Fe­bru­ary. “I have no prob­lem with him get­ting in the race.”

The for­mer vice pres­i­dent, who is try­ing to hold his place as a 2020 fron­trun­ner, struck a con­fi­dent tone about his own prospects and dis­missed any sug­ges­tion that his cam­paign is fal­ter­ing. Bloomberg’s aides said Thurs­day that the for­mer New York City mayor was con­tem­plat­ing a pres­i­den­tial bid be­cause he doesn’t see the cur­rent field as strong enough to pro­duce a nom­i­nee who can de­feat Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“I’m the only per­son in this race that has sig­nif­i­cant sup­port in ev­ery sin­gle soli­tary sec­tor” of the Demo­cratic elec­torate, Bi­den said, point­ing at na­tional pri­mary polls. Of talk that his own can­di­dacy is strug­gling, Bi­den brushed it aside, say­ing, “I’ve been hear­ing about this for a while now.”

Bi­den em­pha­sized his sup­port among African Amer­i­cans, Lati­nos and work­ing-class vot­ers, plus solid stand­ing with women and young vot­ers.

“The Demo­cratic Party is a big tent,” he said. “In or­der to be able to win, you have to be able to reach out and win parts of all of the con­stituency.”

That’s a mes­sage di­rected not only at Bloomberg, but also at Bi­den’s pro­gres­sive pri­mary ri­val El­iz­a­beth War­ren. The Mas­sachusetts se­na­tor has sur­passed Bi­den in some Iowa and New Hamp­shire polls to be­come an­other front-run­ner for the nom­i­na­tion, putting pres­sure on Bi­den to mount more than what ef­fec­tively be­gan as a gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign against Trump.

Ear­lier this week, Bi­den ac­cused War­ren of be­ing elit­ist in her crit­i­cism that any Demo­crat who doesn’t back her pro­gres­sive pro­pos­als on health care, ed­u­ca­tion and other mat­ter might be “run­ning in the wrong pres­i­den­tial pri­mary.”

He and his aides also have be­come more ag­gres­sive in sug­gest­ing War­ren isn’t be­ing hon­est about the cost of her pro­gres­sive plans or the like­li­hood that she could get them passed in Congress.

In New Hamp­shire on Fri­day, Bi­den said he wasn’t try­ing to per­son­ally at­tack the se­na­tor; he called her “a very, very, very com­pe­tent can­di­date,” but said she sets an un­fair stan­dard with an ide­o­log­i­cal pu­rity test.

“I’m not say­ing she’s out of touch,” Bi­den said. “But to turn around and say to the mil­lions of Democrats out there that, in fact, if you don’t agree with me, then you are lack­ing courage ... and you are not a Demo­crat, that’s not how we run the Demo­cratic Party.”

Bi­den aides and donors say they see the nom­i­nat­ing fight crys­tal­liz­ing as a choice be­tween the pro­gres­sivism of War­ren and Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders and the more main­stream lib­er­al­ism of Bi­den and other can­di­dates like Pete But­tigieg, mayor of South Bend, In­di­ana.

The for­mer vice pres­i­dent and his ad­vis­ers be­lieve his ap­proach is more in line with both the pri­mary and gen­eral elec­torate. Bi­den noted Fri­day and on a con­fer­ence call with donors ear­lier this week that most of the fresh­man House Democrats who flipped GOP dis­tricts last Novem­ber backed his health care out­line, not “Medi­care for All,” and won be­cause most vot­ers are wary of com­pletely over­haul­ing the in­sur­ance sys­tem.

Bloomberg and some es­tab­lish­ment Democrats of­fer sim­i­lar as­sess­ments of War­ren, openly fret­ting that she’s too far left to de­feat Trump in a gen­eral elec­tion, even as they also ex­press con­cerns about Bi­den’s strength.

Try­ing to as­suage those Democrats, Bi­den has be­gun ar­gu­ing more force­fully that his long record as a six-term se­na­tor from Delaware and a two-term vice pres­i­dent sep­a­rate him as the can­di­date who can ac­com­plish what he’s propos­ing and is hon­est about his pol­icy’s costs.

For her part, War­ren stands by her $20 tril­lion cost es­ti­mate for the first decade of sin­gle-payer and says that and other pro­grams can be cov­ered by a com­bi­na­tion of ex­ist­ing in­sur­ance pre­mium spend­ing by em­ploy­ers and new taxes on the wealthy and cor­po­ra­tions.

“If Joe Bi­den doesn’t like that ... I’m just not sure where he’s go­ing,” she said re­cently while cam­paign­ing in Iowa.

Bi­den coun­tered Fri­day that War­ren’s ab­so­lutist rhetoric isn’t just bad in­ter­nal party pol­i­tics, but it would also lead to a failed pres­i­dency.

“The next pres­i­dent’s go­ing to in­herit a di­vided na­tion,” he said. “You can’t get any­thing done if you don’t be­gin to unite it.”

PHE­LAN M. EBENHACK/AP

ELISE AMENDOLA/AP

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