On the trail: Sanders goes on attack, Biden warns against 'bloodbath' fight as next contests loom

DETROIT/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will campaign in the Midwest on Saturday, as the two prepare for a showdown in Michigan, Missouri and four other nominating contests next week.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.,March 7, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Sanders, 78, who until recently was the front-runner in the party’s race to face Republican President Donald Trump in November, is now trailing in delegates and desperate to regain momentum after Biden, 77, received a rush of endorsements from party establishment figures following his strong “Super Tuesday” showing this week.

Below is what is happening on Saturday:

SANDERS ATTACKS, BIDEN WARNS AGAINST ‘BLOODBATH’

Sanders attacked Biden at a Michigan rally on Saturday, hours after Biden had warned against a primary “bloodbath” involving the U.S. Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist.

Speaking to a crowd in the Michigan suburb of Dearborn, Sanders lambasted the former vice president for voting in support of the Iraq war and for trade deals he says cost millions of American jobs, including in Michigan and the Midwest.

“Joe Biden voted for those agreements. I wish I didn’t have to tell you what you already know. Those agreements turned out to be an absolute disaster,” Sanders said, referring to trade deals including the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Sanders also decried Biden’s acceptance of campaign contributions from some billionaires.

“At the end of the day people understand that if you are taking lots of money from billionaires, you’re not going to be there standing up for the working class and the middle class of this country,” Sanders said.

Sanders questioned whether Biden could generate enough energy and enthusiasm to prevail against Trump. But he also called Biden a friend, and said both were in agreement that they would support the other against Trump should the other win the nomination.

On Friday night, Biden told a crowd at a fundraiser in Bethesda, Maryland, he was worried his battle with Sanders for the Democratic nomination could turn ugly.

“What we can’t let happen is let this primary become a negative bloodbath. We can’t tear this party apart and re-elect Trump. We have to keep our eyes on the ball,” Biden said as he telephoned in to the Bethesda event.

The race has become a two-man contest between Biden and Sanders. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii congresswoman, is the only other Democratic candidate still in the nominating contest, but has virtually no chance of winning.

Biden and Sanders will face off on Tuesday in Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Washington state, North Dakota and Michigan. A big win for Biden in delegate-rich Michigan would deliver a major blow to Sanders’ hopes of becoming the nominee.

Showing continued momentum following his Super Tuesday wins, Biden’s campaign said on Friday it had raised about $22 million in five days.

BIDEN WINS DOZENS OF ENDORSEMENTS IN MISSOURI

The moderate wing of the Democratic Party has been rapidly coalescing around Biden to stop a Sanders nomination, since Biden’s big win in South Carolina on Feb. 29. On Saturday morning the Biden campaign announced another slew of endorsements from Democratic lawmakers in Missouri – over 60.

Missouri is one of six states to vote on Tuesday, where Biden was due to hold two events on Saturday. Jay Nixon, the state’s former Democratic governor, swung his support behind Biden, leading a well-choreographed army of Missouri officials – 68 in all – to come out in support. They included current and former state politicians, judges, council members and aldermen.

Biden was due to campaign on Saturday in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, where he is scheduled to be joined by U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, a former Congressional Black Caucus chairman who endorsed Biden in September.

Slideshow (10 Images)

SANDERS FOCUSES ON MICHIGAN

Sanders’ appearance in Dearborn began a weekend of campaigning in the crucial battleground state of Michigan, which offers 125 of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Sanders, who won the Michigan primary in 2016 when he ran unsuccessfully for the nomination against Hillary Clinton, was heading to Flint, Michigan, after Dearborn for a town hall focused on racial and economic justice. On Sunday he is set to visit Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.

Reporting by Michael Martina in Detroit, Tim Reid in Los Angeles and Trevor Hunnicutt in St. Louis; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Matthew Lewis

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