MANCHESTER, N.H. – Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on Friday took shots at President Trump and Democratic rivals Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg here in a wide-ranging speech that centered on what he described as the detrimental impact of the unlimited sums of money in US politics.
Before a packed audience at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, Sanders blasted Trump’s tax plan and his usual foes, including the fossil fuel and pharmaceutical industries, blaming the vast flow of cash into the US political system for gaping income inequality and a lack of federal action on issues like climate change and health care.
But he also reserved some fire for members of his own party.
“We got a former mayor of New York City, who has a record, every reason in the world he is entitled to run for president,” he said. "No problem with that, smart guy. But he is spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the election. There is something wrong with that.”
Sanders then read headlines on the candidate who has surged to the top of national polls and competed neck and neck with him in the Iowa caucuses: “ ‘Pete Buttigieg has the most exclusive billionaire donors of any Democrat’ ” and “ ‘Pete Buttigieg takes lead as big business candidate in 2020 field.’ ”
“I like Pete, nice guy,” he said. “But we are in a moment where billionaires control not only our economy but our political [election].”
Sanders is in a virtual tie with Buttigieg in state delegates allocated by the caucuses, and the former South Bend, Ind., mayor has vaulted to the top preferences among likely Democratic New Hampshire presidential primary voters, putting him and Sanders in a statistical dead heat in a Boston Globe/WBZ-TV/Suffolk University poll released Thursday night. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has been in third place.
Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman who was elected mayor of New York City as a Republican and later became an independent before jumping in late to the race for president as a Democrat, has all but ignored the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. His rare campaign strategy hinges on winning on Super Tuesday.
Sanders and Warren have made billionaires the prime foils of their campaigns in a strategy that political analysts have said could help boost their chances for the Democratic presidential nomination by diverting voters from criticism of their ambitious policy plans made by moderate Democratic candidates.
Buttigieg has countered attacks on his billionaire donor base from the senators by pointing to their own personal wealth and calling himself the “least wealthy” candidate. Bloomberg has doubled down on his criticism of other Democratic candidates as “too far left or not tough enough.”
But Sanders once again made the case for his electability — and beating Trump — in November, pointing to the need to turn out high numbers of voters during the general election, including people who had not previously been engaged with the political process. “We are a multigenerational, multiracial campaign that has the capability of reaching out across the country," he said, pitching himself as the candidate who could make that happen.
Voter turnout wasn’t as high in Iowa as the state Democratic Party expected. And in response to a question on Thursday, Sanders said that did worry him. But then, just like on Friday, Sanders emphasized a jump in the youth vote that he said gave him hope.