- Associated Press - Monday, March 2, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Bernie Sanders focused on President Donald Trump and his own progressive message on Monday even as his moderate Democratic rivals began to line up behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Vermont senator started his speech by criticizing Trump with a nod to Utah’s status as deeply Republican state. “Whether you are conservative, progressive, independent or Democratic you understand that the United States cannot continue having as president somebody who is a pathological liar,” he said.

He held the rally at the Utah State Fairpark hours after rival Amy Klobuchar made what turned out to be her last speech as a presidential candidate at another Salt Lake City venue. She lobbed apparent criticism at Sanders without mentioning him my name, saying “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is having things you can actually get done.”

Shortly after she left the city, she dropped out and made plans to endorse Biden. Fellow moderate Pete Buttigieg is doing the same, decisions that reflect an urgent push among moderates to bolster the Biden over Sanders.

The self-described Democratic socialist promised major, systemic change, including single-payer healthcare, immigration reform and free public college. During his Utah speech, some of the biggest cheers came when he promised a comprehensive plan to address climate change based on the Green New Deal.

“The establishment is getting very, very nervous,” he said.

Salt Lake City electrician Jesse Haynes, a 41-year-old libertarian, has supported Sanders since 2016. He said he expects the presidential race to get more divisive. Still, he said sweeping changes like Sanders’ promise to legalize marijuana nationwide would be worth it.

“I’m sick and tired of the rich,” he said. “They get away with everything.”

Sanders won Utah’s 2016 Democratic primary in a landslide, and is considered the front runner as the state prepares to vote for the first time on Super Tuesday, named for the many large, delegate-rich states that vote March 3.

Still, Elizabeth Warren announced endorsements from Democratic state leaders on Monday, including Sen. Luz Escamilla, Rep. Brian King and former Salt Lake City mayor Jackie Biskupski.

Mike Bloomberg picked up an endorsement from the state’s lone congressional Democrat, Rep. Ben McAdams. Several leaders in and around Salt Lake County had backed Buttigieg, who was among the moderate Democrats hoping to woo some Republicans disaffected with Trump.

Salt Lake County, the state’s most populous, has sent out nearly 333,000 mail-in ballots, and more than 40% were for the Democratic primary, according to the county clerk. That far outstrips the 22% of county voters who are registered Democrats.

The Democratic primary is open in Utah, so voters can cast ballots regardless of party affiliation. The state also offers same-day registration at the polls. Utah has 29 pledged delegates up for grabs. They’re awarded on a proportional basis.

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