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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top 2020 Democrats, armed with decades of opposition research, plan to savage Mike Bloomberg as a Democratic Trump — an egomaniac New York billionaire who's stained by sexism and racial slights, and hell-bent on buying power and puppeteering mass media.

Why it matters: Bloomberg knows it's coming, has rehearsed his retorts, readied ads and policy plans to deflect, and will unleash $1.5 billion more on ads and staff to clean up any damage.

  • Tonight’s debate in Vegas, Bloomberg's first time onstage with his rivals, should be a doozy.

The Bloomberg campaign sounds unfazed. Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg's top strategist, tells Axios: "Mike will defend his record of doing more to address issues of concern to Democratic voters than anyone else in the race."

  • Sheekey added, in what the campaign considers its trump card: "Voters are focused on electability."

But check out what Bloomberg has coming at him. In public comments and private leaks of opposition research, this is rivals' anti-Bloomberg argument:

  • He bought power and silence: He hid behind $400 million in ads to buy his way to second place — after spending billions of dollars to ingratiate himself with would-be critics.
  • He was crude and sexist: The N.Y. Times and WashPost unloaded detailed investigations of sexist language and behavior. The WashPost reported a lawsuit by a former Bloomberg LP saleswoman: "She alleged Bloomberg told her to 'kill it' when he learned she was pregnant," which she interpreted as "have an abortion to keep her job." Bloomberg denied that under oath and reached a confidential settlement, per the Post. The campaign said: "Mike simply does not tolerate any kind of discrimination or harassment."
    • Business Insider reported: "[N]early 40 employment lawsuits from 65 plaintiffs have been lodged against Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg personally in state and federal courts since 1996, the majority of which deal with discrimination over gender, race, and disability status, as well as pregnancy discrimination and wage theft."
    • In a sign of what other campaigns say is a sign of how much more is to come, BuzzFeed News yesterday dropped a story with the headline: "Bloomberg Once Again Called Transgender People 'It' And 'Some Guy Wearing A Dress.'" A campaign statement said: "Mike understands that the transgender community has been under attack ... [D]uring his first year as mayor, Mike signed a sweeping transgender civil rights bill."
  • When he was New York mayor, the city's stop-and-frisk policy targeted black and Latino people. Bloomberg told a black church in Brooklyn in November: "I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong."
  • He has Cheney-like authoritarian instincts: He called the NYPD the "seventh largest army in the world," and was part of Muslim-targeting in the years after 9/11. [Corrected] "I think people, the voters, want low crime," Bloomberg told the N.Y. Times in an interview in 2018. "They don’t want kids to kill each other."
  • He censors and silences media. He owns one of the largest media companies in the world, with his journalists under orders not to cover his "wealth or personal life." After he announced, Bloomberg News journalists were told in an internal memo: "We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries."
  • He coddled China for business reasons. Bloomberg told PBS' "Firing Line" in September, during a discussion of climate, that Xi Jinping "is not a dictator — he has to satisfy his constituents or he's not gonna survive." Michael Forsythe, one of the top journalistic diggers in Hong Kong, left Bloomberg News in 2013 and later joined the N.Y. Times, where he's now an investigative reporter, after Bloomberg News sat on an exposé about financial shenanigans by the regime, because of fears that Bloomberg would be expelled from China. Bloomberg editors said the article wasn't ready.

👀 Watch Joe Biden tonight: The former vice president has easily the most incentive to go after Bloomberg.

  • Each is competing to be the Electable One; Biden was hacked off that Bloomberg promised not to run against him and then did; and, unlike the others, he has no interest in his money — or a job in his administration.

Axios' Zachary Basu contributed reporting.

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Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

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The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A price tag of $500 billion to $555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. presses Gulf countries to help resolve Sudan coup crisis

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The Biden administration has asked its partners in the Gulf and elsewhere to press the Sudanese generals who carried out a coup on Monday to release captives including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and to reinstate the civilian government, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has limited influence over coup leader Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and other military leaders, many of whom have close ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.