Sanders sets rallies, ads in Michigan as Bloomberg backs Biden

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News
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U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is focusing on Michigan with rallies and new advertisements ahead of the state's Tuesday primary election, a contest that could be critical as he and former Vice President Joe Biden battle for Democratic delegates.

The rallies on Friday in Detroit and Sunday in Grand Rapids come as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden along with former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm

The Vermont senator will hold an event at 7 p.m. Friday in Detroit at the TCF Center, according to an email his campaign sent supporters in Michigan. Then, on Sunday, he will hold a rally at 12:30 p.m. at Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids.

Sanders' campaign announce the new efforts aimed at Michigan on Wednesday, the same day that Bloomberg, who has spent $12 million on TV ads in the state, decided to drop out of the race.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane O'Meara Sanders, arrives to speak during a primary night election rally in Essex Junction, Vt., Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Sanders campaign unveiled three new televisions advertisements that will be running in states that vote on Tuesday, like Michigan, and other states that vote a week later on March 17.

Four years ago, Sanders scored a surprise victory in Michigan's primary, beating Hillary Clinton by 1.4 percentage points. In the past few months, he's netted endorsements here from U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed.

Sanders is in a race with Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to win the 125 Michigan delegates that will be allocated based on Tuesday's results.

Six states have elections Tuesday but Michigan holds the most Democratic delegates of the group.

Warren and Gabbard visited Detroit on Tuesday, and Warren is scheduled to hold another event Friday in Lansing.

Bloomberg was scheduled to visit Macomb County on Thursday but announced he's ending his campaign after a weak showing on Tuesday in which he won 50 delegates in 14 state primaries and America Samoa. The announcement means Thursday's event is canceled.

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg gives his thumbs-up after speaking during a campaign event at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.

"The past few months have been some of the most inspiring of my life, and I want to thank the tens of thousands of Americans, from Maine to California, whom I was privileged to meet — and who every day, with their voices and their ideas, made this campaign such a powerful experience," Bloomberg said in a statement.

The 78-year-old Bloomberg endorsed 77-year-old Biden, whom the former mayor  credited for "his decency, his honesty and his commitment to the issues that are so important to our country."

It was Biden who was leading Sanders by 7 percentage points in Michigan, according to a Detroit News/WDIV-TV survey of 600 likely state Democratic primary voters released Tuesday. Bloomberg got 10.5%, while Warren had 7% in the poll conducted by Glengariff Group.

In 2016, Sanders, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2006, got 598,943 votes here, beating Clinton by fewer than 18,000 votes. But he won all but 10 of Michigan's 83 counties.

Sanders last visited Michigan on Oct. 27 for an event where he received Tlaib's endorsement and where musician Jack White performed.

Wayne County, which includes Detroit where he will be on Friday, was the Michigan county Sanders lost by the most votes to Clinton in 2016. Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids where he will be on Sunday, was the Michigan county Sanders won by the most votes against Clinton.

One of the new ads that Sanders' campaign released Wednesday features positive statements about Sanders made by former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president.

Another features audio of Biden talking in 1995 about efforts he previously supported to put a "freeze" on federal spending that he said would include Social Security.

"Well, we’ve got some bad news for them," Sanders says in the ad. "We are not gonna cut Social Security. We are gonna expand benefits."

Biden's current campaign website says he wants to "protect Social Security for the millions of Americans who depend on the program" and strengthen "benefits for the most vulnerable older Americans."

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