By Michelle L. Price
LAS VEGAS — Democratic presidential candidates descended on Nevada on Saturday in an attempt to build relationships with Latino voters and win the coveted endorsement of the powerful casino workers’ Culinary Union.
Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, both running as Midwestern moderates who’ve warned against liberal plans to move the U.S. to a government-run health insurance system, pitched themselves Saturday morning to Culinary Union workers, who prize their robust health plans.
Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, said the “Medicare for All” proposals like those put out by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “might sound really good on a bumper sticker” but would cause millions of Americans to lose their current health insurance, including the plans the casino workers bargained hard for.
“All of that work, I don’t want it to go down the drain,” Klobuchar said during her appearance at the workers’ union hall just off the Las Vegas Strip.
Buttigieg, who took the stage after Klobuchar left, made a similar point as he pushed his plan to offer government-run Medicare insurance to those who want it.
“I believe that if it’s the best answer for everybody, well, then everybody will choose it anyway,” said the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Visits from Klobuchar, Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden came a little more than a month before early caucus voting starts in Nevada, the third state to weigh in on the primary race.
Biden has maintained a top spot in Nevada polls. In the most recent poll of the state, released Thursday by Fox News, he has a slight lead over Bernie Sanders, followed by Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer, with Buttigieg trailing slightly. Klobuchar, who has only recently established her campaign in Nevada, has been polling in low single digits.
Biden held a town hallstyle meeting at a high school in north Las Vegas with Latino and immigrant advocacy group Mi Familia Vota.
Nevada, considered the first state to test a candidate’s appeal before a diverse population, is a minority-majority state that’s about 29% Latino. Hispanic voters are a key constituency for Democrats in the state, along with labor unions.
Biden spoke to an audience of about 200, mostly people of color, packed into chairs and on stairways to listen. The former vice president said he has no Hispanic heritage but that he understands what it’s like to be a second-class citizen, growing up Irish Catholic in his Scranton, Pennsylvania, neighborhood.