Sen. Bernie Sanders compared his record with Joe Biden’s on trade and foreign policy on Monday, attempting to draw sharp contrasts between himself and the former vice president as the two lead the Democratic presidential pack.
When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper if Sanders was concerned about Biden’s endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Vermont independent said, “I’m running against, I think, 19 other people, so I’m concerned about everybody,” with a laugh — before setting out a brief history of their political disagreements.
“But I think when people take a look at my record versus Vice President Biden’s record — I helped lead the fight against (North American Free Trade Agreement); he voted for NAFTA,” Sanders said on “Anderson Cooper 360.”
“I helped lead the fight against (permanent normal trade relations) with China; he voted for it. I strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership; he supported it. I voted against the war in Iraq; he voted for it.”
Sanders’ comments offered a preview of the debates likely to dominate the Democratic primary, as the party’s recent progressive push comes up against its more corporate-friendly, moderate establishment. Biden and Sanders, despite their differences on policy, both see electoral bases of support in the industrial Midwest and among organized labor. By underlining his opposition to trade deals mostly reviled by leading unions, Sanders, who has also criticized President Donald Trump’s record on this front, could cut into Biden’s support.
Biden, during his time serving under President Barack Obama, was one of the leading backers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive proposed trade deal that Trump snuffed out early in his term. Sanders greeted its demise with delight, saying in a January 2017 statement that he was “glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone.”
But Sanders has also clashed with the President repeatedly over trade policy, most recently when he came out in opposition to the administration’s renegotiation of NAFTA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, calling on Trump during a recent rally to “go back to the drawing board on NAFTA” and “not send this treaty to Congress.”
The former vice president held his first rally as a 2020 presidential candidate on Monday, the same day the firefighters union publicly endorsed him.
“I like Joe Biden. Joe is a friend of mine,” Sanders said, adding, “I think what we need to do with all of the candidates, have a issue-oriented campaign, not personal attacks.”
Sanders said the candidates need to “talk about what we have done in our political lives, what we want to do as president and how we’re going to transform our economy so that it works for all of us and not just the 1%.”
Biden and Sanders are front-runners in a crowded field of 2020 Democrats, with Biden having formally entered the presidential race only last week. So far, the candidates have largely refrained from drawing distinctions between themselves and the other Democratic contenders.