Sanders says presidential rival Bloomberg will not excite voters

Mr Mike Bloomberg, a Democratic presidential candidate, attending an event at the Heritage Christian Centre in Aurora, Colorado, on Dec 5, 2019. PHOTO: NYTIMES

LAS VEGAS (REUTERS) - Democratic United States presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Saturday (Feb 15) that fellow contender Mike Bloomberg would not generate the "excitement and energy" needed to win the White House, focusing on a rival still not fully participating in the race.

"The simple truth is that Mayor Bloomberg, with all his money, will not create the kind of excitement and energy we need to have the voter turnout we must have to defeat Donald Trump," Mr Sanders said at a Democratic party gala.

Mr Sanders, eager to build momentum after winning New Hampshire and a photo finish for first place in Iowa, mentioned only the billionaire former New York City mayor among his competitors in a Las Vegas speech. He was critical of Mr Bloomberg's stances on minimum wage laws, policing, taxing the rich and regulating Wall Street.

On Feb 22, Nevada will hold the next contest in the state-by-state race to pick a Democratic opponent for Republican President Trump in November's election.

Mr Bloomberg was not at the event in Las Vegas and is not competing in Nevada. He is choosing instead to focus on states that vote starting on March 3's "Super Tuesday", including Virginia, where he campaigned on Saturday. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of normal working hours.

Mr Sanders' remarks appeared dismissive of other candidates who did speak at the forum. They included former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who raced Mr Sanders to a photo finish in the Iowa caucus and trailed him only narrowly in New Hampshire earlier this month.

Former US vice-president Joe Biden criticised Mr Sanders, though not by name, in his own speech for Mr Sanders' prior support of a law shielding gun manufacturers from some liability for mass shootings.

Earlier in the day, Mr Biden taped an interview with NBC's Meet the Press where he said Mr Sanders should "disown" some supporters for aggressive attacks on the senator's critics.

Most of the other candidates avoided confrontations despite just a week until Nevada's caucus.

"The bad news is, after more than 100,000 selfies, I picked up somebody's cold," candidate Elizabeth Warren told the crowd, her voice cracking and barely audible. "The good news is, 'nevertheless she persists'. I'm on this stage tonight because I am a fighter."

Early voting started in Nevada on Saturday, with 11,800 Democrats participating. One party official characterised turnout as higher than expected.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.