San­ders re­fo­cuses on Bi­den af­ter stum­ble

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Steve Peo­ples, Will Weissert and Bill Bar­row

WASH­ING­TON » His fron­trun­ner sta­tus slip­ping, Bernie San­ders re­fo­cused his Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial cam­paign on surg­ing ri­val Joe Bi­den on Wed­nes­day as the Ver­mont sen­a­tor’s al­lies grap­pled with the fall­out from a Su­per Tues­day stum­ble that raised in­ter­nal con­cerns about the di­rec­tion of his White House bid.

San­ders tar­geted Bi­den’s record on trade, So­cial Se­cu­rity and fundrais­ing just hours af­ter bil­lion­aire Mike Bloomberg sus­pended his cam­paign and El­iz­a­beth War­ren con­firmed she was pri­vately re­assess­ing her fu­ture in the race. The dra­matic shifts sig­naled that the Democrats’ on­ce­crowded nom­i­na­tion fight had ef­fec­tively come down to a two-man race for the right to face Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in Novem­ber.

San­ders de­clared him­self “neck and neck” with Bi­den as he faced re­porters in his home state, Ver­mont, one of just four states he cap­tured on the most con­se­quen­tial day of voting in the party’s 2020 pri­mary sea­son. Bi­den won 10 states, as­sem­bling vic­to­ries that tran­scended geography, race and class.

“What this cam­paign, I think, is in­creas­ingly about is, Which side are you on?” San­ders said.

The pro­gres­sive can­di­date lobbed fa­mil­iar at­tacks against the for­mer vice pres­i­dent’s record but ig­nored sup­port­ers’ calls to be more ag­gres­sive and in­sisted his cam­paign would avoid any “Trump-type ef­fort” that in­cluded per­sonal crit­i­cism.

“I like Joe. I think he’s a de­cent hu­man be­ing,” San­ders said. “Joe and I have a very dif­fer­ent vi­sion for the fu­ture of this coun­try.”

Bi­den told re­porters he would unify the coun­try and, with­out nam­ing San­ders, knocked the sen­a­tor’s fre­quent con­tention that he is be­holden to an elite party es­tab­lish­ment.

“The es­tab­lish­ment are all those hard-work­ing peo­ple” who voted on Tues­day, Bi­den told re­porters in West Hol­ly­wood, Cal­i­for­nia.

Elected of­fi­cials and lead­ing donors ral­lied around Bi­den af­ter his Su­per Tues­day romp. Top Democrats have long been skep­ti­cal of the 77-year-old life­long politi­cian’s po­lit­i­cal strength but raced to unite be­hind him to blunt San­ders’ rise.

Af­ter sus­pend­ing his cam­paign, Bloomberg be­came the fourth failed Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial con­tender this week to en­dorse Bi­den. Like the grow­ing cho­rus of Demo­cratic of­fi­cials, Bloomberg called Bi­den the best chance to de­feat Trump in the gen­eral elec­tion.

War­ren’s fu­ture was un­cer­tain.

San­ders con­firmed that he spoke to his pro­gres­sive ally ear­lier in the day, though it was un­clear whether she would en­dorse him — or any­one else — should she leave the race. War­ren didn’t win a sin­gle state on Su­per Tues­day and fin­ished in third place in her home state of Mas­sachusetts.

A resur­gent Bi­den, mean­while, was poised to fin­ish Su­per Tues­day with more del­e­gates than San­ders — a stunning shift. San­ders’ team had hoped he would fin­ish the night more than 100 del­e­gates ahead of his next clos­est com­peti­tor. He’ll likely fin­ish dozens of del­e­gates be­hind once all the votes are counted.

Bi­den’s al­lies sought to quickly cap­i­tal­ize on his suc­cess and take on San­ders. Bi­den cam­paign cochair­man, Rep. Cedric Rich­mond, blasted San­ders for sug­gest­ing that the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment was col­lud­ing against him. Rich­mond said Bi­den is earn­ing his votes.

“I just did not know that African Amer­i­cans in the South were con­sid­ered part of the es­tab­lish­ment,” the Louisiana Demo­crat said, not­ing that Bi­den’s over­whelm­ing sup­port among black vot­ers gave him wide del­e­gate gains in Alabama, North Carolina and Vir­ginia, among other states.

The San­ders cam­paign an­nounced it would be­gin air­ing three new cam­paign ads across states hold­ing the next series of pri­mary con­tests on March 10 and March 17: Ari­zona, Florida, Idaho, Illi­nois, Michi­gan, Mis­sis­sippi, Mis­souri, Ohio and Wash­ing­ton state.

One new ad fea­tures archived footage of for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama prais­ing San­ders. It’s a not-so-sub­tle at­tempt by the Ver­mont sen­a­tor to un­der­cut Bi­den’s fre­quently spot­light­ing his close­ness to Obama.

De­spite the ag­gres­sive ad buy, there was new ev­i­dence of in­ter­nal frus­tra­tion with San­ders’ strat­egy, which some be­lieve has not been tough enough in court­ing high-pro­file en­dorse­ments or at­tack­ing

Bi­den.

San­ders prefers to fo­cus his crit­i­cism on the for­mer vice pres­i­dent’s record on key is­sues, de­clin­ing to lean into more di­vi­sive at­tacks that will al­most cer­tainly come up in a prospec­tive gen­eral elec­tion match-up against Trump.

For ex­am­ple, there has been in­ter­nal dis­cus­sion about high­light­ing Bi­den’s role in the 1991 con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings of Supreme Court Jus­tice Clarence Thomas, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the plans who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss strat­egy. As the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee chair­man, Bi­den al­lowed an all-male Se­nate panel to grill Anita Hill, who had ac­cused Thomas of sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

San­ders has largely avoided the sub­ject.

Roseann DeMoro, a key San­ders ally and a for­mer pres­i­dent of National Nurses United, said Bi­den’s strong show­ing on Su­per Tues­day “caught peo­ple off guard.” San­ders’ strug­gle, she said, was likely tied to his “gen­tle” ap­proach.

“Is Bernie too gen­tle on the Demo­cratic Party? I think he’s a gen­tle­man, and they are not,” DeMoro said. “Bernie’s a states­man, and he’s up against sharks. He needs to call peo­ple out for who they are.”

Na­tion » A6

WIL­SON RING — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sen. Bernie San­ders, I-Vt., speaks at his cam­paign head­quar­ters in Burling­ton, Vt., on Wed­nes­day.

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