Biden and Sanders take aim at each other as top two emerge in Democrats contest

By Will Weissert

The two top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination have sharpened their attacks against each other.

Former US vice president Joe Biden and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders are each looking to convince voters that they are the best choice to take on Donald Trump in November as six more states – Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington – prepare to vote in their primaries on Tuesday.

This weekend reflects the new contours of a race that once featured more than 20 Democrats.

This state of play could endure for months as Mr Biden and Mr Sanders wage a protracted battle for the right to attempt to oust the president from the White House.

“You cannot defeat Trump with the same-old, same-old politics of yesteryear,” Mr Sanders told more than 7,000 supporters at a convention hall in Detroit.

At 78, Mr Sanders is actually a year older than Mr Biden. But the avowed democratic socialist who has served in US congress since 1991 argues that he has bucked the establishment of both parties for decades with unpopular stands that now give him the credibility to lead a political revolution “from the bottom up”.

Mr Sanders said it is part of a larger movement that can draw younger voters, minorities and working class people to the polls even though they tend to vote in lower concentrations than many other Americans.

Joe Biden speaks in Los Angeles (AP)

Strong support among Hispanics lifted Mr Sanders to victories in Nevada and California, but Mr Biden trounced him in South Carolina and throughout much of the Deep South that voted during last week’s Super Tuesday.

Mr Biden proved especially popular among African American voters.

Mr Sanders is looking for a strong finish in Washington, but he cancelled a trip to Mississippi to focus on Michigan, the largest prize on offer this Tuesday.

He is holding a rally Saturday in the heavily Arab American community of Dearborn, and has three more Michigan events scheduled this weekend. Mr Biden will campaign in Missouri and Mississippi.

Mr Sanders has used his Michigan stops to hammer Mr Biden’s past support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing that it moved high-paying US jobs to Mexico and China while devastating manufacturing in a state dominated by the car industry.

The Vermont senator said: “Joe’s been around for a while, and I’ve been around for a while. How do we differ? What’s our records? Who stood up when the going was tough?”

Mr Sanders is focused on Mr Biden’s years in the US senate, when the former vice president backed not only trade agreements and the US-led war in Iraq, but also a ban on using federal funds to pay for abortions.

Mr Biden announced this summer that he was reversing his position on that, but Mr Sanders said that was not enough, adding: “I think we need a candidate that can be trusted on this issue. I am proud to tell you that I am 100% pro-choice.”

Barack Obama’s former vice president saw a surge of donor support after South Carolina and Super Tuesday, and his campaign announced that it was spending 12 million dollars (£9.2 million) on a six-state advertising drive in places voting this Tuesday and the following week.

It is his largest single advertising effort of the 2020 campaign.

He is using two television and digital ads, one promoting his relationship with Mr Obama, the other a new effort to counter a Sanders attack on Mr Biden’s past record on social security.

It is a criticism Mr Sanders has used for months, though he has not mentioned it as frequently while campaigning in Michigan.

“Biden will increase social security benefits and protect it for generations to come,” a narrator intones in one of the ads, before turning the matter back on Mr Sanders.

“Negative ads will only help Donald Trump. It’s time we bring our party together.”