Biden will go after Bloomberg, Sanders at Las Vegas debate, aides say

Biden will go after Bloomberg, Sanders at Las Vegas debate, aides say
© Greg Nash

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Democratic groups using Bloomberg money to launch M in Spanish language ads in Florida Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE is putting Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOutrage erupts over Breonna Taylor grand jury ruling Dimon: Wealth tax 'almost impossible to do' Grand jury charges no officers in Breonna Taylor death MORE (I-Vt.) and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg in his crosshairs as he looks to mount a comeback in the Democratic presidential race at Wednesday’s primary debate in Las Vegas.

Senior aides to the former vice president said that he is planning to target Bloomberg at the debate over the flurry of controversies that have emerged around the former mayor’s nascent candidacy in recent weeks.

Among them: his past support of a now-infamous stop-and-frisk policy used by New York City police; his 2008 comments linking the financial crisis to the end of a discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining”; and allegations of sexual harassment.

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“Mayor Bloomberg is profoundly unvetted,” one senior Biden campaign official told reporters on a conference call. “Story after story has come out and the sheer volume of these stories is disturbing.”

The aides also said that Biden is preparing to go after Sanders, whose early victories in the nominating contest have propelled him to front-runner status in the primary race. 

In particular, they said, the former vice president is expected to raise concerns about Sanders’s opposition to a 2007 immigration reform bill, his past support for legislation favored by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun manufacturers, and his current "Medicare for All" proposal.

“The reality is, these are all issues that Vice President Biden will be prepared to forcefully address,” an aide said.

Health care is likely to emerge as a potentially volatile issue for Sanders during Wednesday night’s debate. The Vermont senator found himself at odds with Nevada’s powerful Culinary Workers Union last week after the group posted fliers that criticized his signature Medicare for All proposal, warning workers that it would mean losing their union insurance.

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Biden is scrambling to notch top finishes in the Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primary after middling performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to hold presidential nominating contests. South Carolina carries particular weight for Biden, who’s banking on strong support from black voters to hand him a win there.

Sanders, meanwhile, has seen his political stock soar in recent weeks after placing second in the Iowa caucuses and first in New Hampshire. Recent national polls show him leading the pack by double digits. He’s also hoping that strong support from Latino voters will help propel him to victory in Nevada, a win that would likely extend his current burst of momentum.

Bloomberg, who’s not competing in any of the early primary and caucus states, including Nevada and South Carolina, has risen in national polls. Wednesday’s forum in Las Vegas will mark his first time on the debate stage since he launched his campaign in November, and he’s expected to face incoming attacks from several candidates, including Sanders.