BY TIM REID AND SIMON LEWIS
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden renewed a spat over their Social Security and trade policies on Friday as the Democratic presidential rivals faced a slew of crucial nominating contests next week, including the big prize of Michigan.
The campaign of U.S. Senator Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, accused former Vice President Biden of having “repeatedly tried to cut Social Security” in the past, in an email to journalists issued late on Thursday.
Biden, who denies ever advocating cuts to social security, snapped back in a Tweet on Friday: “Get real, Bernie. The only person who’s going to cut Social Security if he’s elected is Donald Trump. Maybe you should spend your time attacking him.”
Sanders, during a press conference in Phoenix on Friday, also lambasted Biden for supporting trade deals he said had been “a disaster for Michigan”
The exchange reflects mounting tension between the two White House hopefuls in what has become a tight two-way race for the party mantle to face Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election.
Sanders, the early front-runner, now trails in delegates and desperate to regain momentum after Biden’s strong Super Tuesday showing, in which 14 states voted, and his previous win in South Carolina on Feb. 29.
Elizabeth Warren, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ended their White House bids after the March 3 primaries.
Warren’s exit meant that what was once hailed as the most diverse field of candidates in U.S. history narrowed to a race for the nomination between two white, septuagenarian men. Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii with virtually no chance of winning, is the only other candidate still in the Democratic race.
Biden’s Super Tuesday turnaround benefited as the Democratic party establishment mobilized to try and stop Sanders, with former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota dropping out of the race and endorsing Biden.
A big win for Biden in delegate-rich Michigan on Tuesday would deal another major blow to Sanders. Five other states decide on Tuesday: Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington.
The Sanders campaign has also attacked Biden over his support for trade deals, including the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which Sanders says led to millions of American manufacturing jobs being shipped overseas. The loss of manufacturing jobs is a major issue in Michigan.