Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign took issue Wednesday with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) characterizing the race for the Democratic presidential nomination as a fight between his movement and that of the party establishment.
A big part of Sanders’ pitch to voters has been his fight against the “establishment,” whether it be politicians in Washington, D.C., or bankers on Wall Street. It’s a message that has resonated across the country, helping build an impressive grassroots organization funded by millions of small donors.
The senator kept at it this week by pointing to high-profile endorsements Biden received from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Sanders said these former 2020 contenders endorsing Biden served as evidence that party bigwigs are coalescing to stop him from winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
“Look, we are taking on the establishment. And I fully understand, no great surprise to me that establishment politicians are not going to endorse us,” Sanders said at a campaign event in Salt Lake City on Tuesday when asked about the support Biden has received in recent days.
And on Wednesday, Sanders went after Biden for accepting funds from wealthy donors.
“Joe is running a campaign which is obviously heavily supported by the corporate establishment. At last count he has received funding from at least 60 billionaires,” the senator said during a news conference in Vermont.
“To say that African American voters in the South are the establishment is not only untrue, but it’s insulting.”
But the rhetoric didn’t sit well with Biden’s campaign, which accused Sanders of downplaying the major role Black voters played in boosting Biden in states across the South.
“I just did not know African Americans in the South were considered part of the establishment,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), a co-chair of Biden’s campaign, told reporters on a press call on Wednesday.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who endorsed Biden ahead of his double-digit victory in Virginia on Tuesday, was even more blunt.
“To say that African American voters in the South are the establishment is not only untrue, but it’s insulting,” Kaine told CNN’s Manu Raju.
Biden on Tuesday won 10 primary states, including Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Alabama. But his political comeback began in earnest over the weekend with his huge victory in South Carolina, where Black voters make up two-thirds of registered Democrats. And he likely wouldn’t have performed as well there without a crucial endorsement from Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking Black member of Congress.
Sanders, meanwhile, is banking on the state of California and its huge delegate haul to help him withstand Biden’s last-minute surge with voters. The senator is likely to win a bigger share of delegates there, but the final results may not be known for a while due to a large number of absentee ballots that have yet to be counted, meaning the race will only heat up this month.
The immediate primary map in March looks more difficult for Sanders, however. States heading to the polls this month include Michigan, where he is expected to do well due to his upset win there in 2016, but also Mississippi, Missouri, Georgia and Florida ― states where he struggled in 2016 and is currently trailing in the polls.
On Wednesday, Sanders’ campaign went on the offense by airing ads touting his relationship with former President Barack Obama, who might be as establishment as you get. And it released an ad in Florida that attacks Biden over his record on funding for Social Security and Medicare.