By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON, February 13 (Reuters). The US Democratic presidential candidate targeted a rival on Thursday whose name has not yet appeared on the ballot in the states with early voting, but whose television advertising has covered the air waves: former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who followed in competitions in Iowa and New Hampshire, targeted Bloomberg for past police policies in the largest city in the United States and his comments on a mortgage practice that is generally considered racially discriminatory becomes.
As a late contestant, Bloomberg attracted hundreds of people to North Carolina, one of the 14 states that will vote in the March 3 Super Tuesday contest, where he will appear as a declared candidate for the first time.
Voters at these events said they would check to see if Bloomberg, a homemade billionaire, could beat Republican President Donald Trump in November.
“I think Mike Bloomberg can stand up to Trump,” said Maureen Scott, 68, a retiree in Winston-Salem.
Here are some highlights from the campaign path on Thursday:
Biden, a moderator, whose former frontrunner status was adversely affected by poor early performance, said he was going to debate Bloomberg about his racial discrimination records, while Warren was the former New Yorker’s defense of a discriminatory housing practice known as redlining Mayor criticized.
Bloomberg, which finances its campaign itself, has come under fire because it made comments in 2008 that linked a collapse in the US real estate market to a redlining ban, a practice that banks refuse to grant mortgage loans to entire neighborhoods forgive.
“As you started pushing in this direction, banks began to lend more and more where the credit of the person buying the house was not as good as you would like it to be,” Bloomberg said in comments, that reappeared in an Associated Press report.
Redlining has long been associated with racial discrimination, although Bloomberg’s 2008 comments described practice as banks avoiding poor neighborhoods.
Biden suggested challenging Bloomberg on this matter and in relation to Bloomberg’s previous support for a police strategy known as “stop and frisk” that Bloomberg used as mayor and which involved a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos.
“I will have the opportunity to discuss everything from redlining to stopping and browsing,” Biden told ABC’s The View.
Bloomberg has not yet qualified for the February 19 democratic debate in Nevada, which will take place shortly before the western state’s nomination competition on February 22.
Bloomberg will not run in Nevada or South Carolina, which will vote on February 29.
Warren also attacked Bloomberg while redlining.
“We have to face the shameful legacy of discrimination and not lie about it like Mike Bloomberg,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Bloomberg campaign declined to comment on Biden and Warren’s statements. Bloomberg apologized a few days before his candidacy was announced for stopping in November.
BLOOMBERG TARGETS TRUMP
In a cafe in Winston-Salem, Bloomberg said that he called Trump a “scam” before his 2016 election and added, “He’s worse than I thought.”
“I’m a New Yorker. I know how to deal with New York bullies. I’m not afraid of Donald Trump,” he said.
Trump threw a new line of insults at Bloomberg on Thursday, calling him a “loser” on Twitter.
Bloomberg and Trump are both wealthy businessmen, though Bloomberg’s personal fortune, valued at around $ 60 billion, overshadows the President’s.
Several voters in the crowd in Winston-Salem said they wanted a moderate candidate who could beat Trump in November. Some said they were looking for an alternative to Biden after worrying about its debates and weaknesses in the first two electoral states.
Cassaundra El-Amin, a black voter in Winston-Salem, said she was still concerned about Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy, but found his apology to be sincere.
“I just feel like he can beat Trump,” she said.
Eight Democrats are still in the running for their party’s nomination, with an unusually large number of them winning double-digit levels of support in states with early voting or in polls.
This makes it more difficult for U.S. media organizations to select a candidate for support, as seen on Thursday when Las Vegas Weekly supported both Biden and a Democratic colleague, Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, who moderated both.
“We are confident that each of these candidates can beat the divisive and destructive incumbent in November,” said the Las Vegas Weekly.
It wasn’t the first newspaper that couldn’t make a decision: the New York Times approved both Warren and Klobuchar in the primaries last month.
Several current or former democratic officials were more decisive on Thursday. The Mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, the US representative Ted Deutch from Florida and the former governor of North Carolina, Bev Perdue, supported Bloomberg.
(Reporting by Jason Lange, additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)