(CNN)Democratic presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders has railed against billionaires and their influence on politics for years. On Wednesday in Las Vegas, he will face off on the debate stage against one of the world’s richest men, the rapidly rising Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg makes his debut on the debate stage in Nevada, one of the four early states where he decided not to compete, after spending a stunning $419 million on television ads, which has helped him to meet the polling criteria set by the Democratic National Committee.
The other candidates telegraphed Wednesday that the former New York mayor’s record on everything from policing techniques to his past party affiliation will be a central focus at the NBC debate on Wednesday at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas. Bloomberg leapfrogged former Vice President Joe Biden in new national poll from NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist, landing in second place with 19% behind Sanders, who drew 31%.
As Bloomberg has risen in the polls, he has confronted heavy media scrutiny of his record, providing ample fodder for his rivals to sift through during the debate. As they vie for minority voters, his rivals will be looking to highlight Bloomberg’s support of New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy as mayor, which disproportionately targeted black and Latino people.
Bloomberg has also been forced to confront misogynistic and sexually crude comments that he used in the workplace in the 1980s and 1990s, some of which ended up in discrimination lawsuits against him.
In a party that has worked hard to broadcast a message of inclusion to the LGBTQ community, Bloomberg referred to transgender people last year as “he, she, or it” and “some guy wearing a dress” while arguing that the party has become too deeply mired in social issues, as BuzzFeed first reported on Tuesday.
Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have all highlighted the exorbitant amount of money that Bloomberg has spent to endear himself to Democratic voters. Businessman Tom Steyer has spent half the amount that Bloomberg has, with nearly $195 million in spending on ads, while Sanders’ deep support among small dol