Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are already well-known commodities. So too is Vice President Joe Biden, who still might announce his intentions to run in the moments leading up to Tuesday’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas.
But for the other, lesser-known candidates, Tuesday marks the first real chance to make a move into the top-tier discussion in the party that has been dominated by the prior-mentioned Clinton, Sanders, and Biden for months.
Those candidates – former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee – are the favorites of a minuscule 1.7% of voters, combined, according to the latest data from RealClearPolitics.
They’re in desperate need of the exposure.
And, unlike the Republican debates, which were filled with so many candidates there had to be a “kids” table, a far-less congested debate for the Democrats means the three will get plenty of time to talk during the two-and-a-half hour event.
Add in the thought that each will be more likely to launch attacks on Clinton and Sanders due to their current dire situation in the polls, and CNN could decide to divert some added attention to them. Clinton and Sanders have refused to say anything bad about each other in the months leading up to the debate, a far cry from the poll-leaders in the Republican party.
So who are these three relative-unknowns? Well, here’s a little bit about each of them:
O’Malley served as governor of Maryland from 2007-2015 and was the mayor of Baltimore from 1999-2007. He was once written about as one of the rising stars of the party – along with Barack Obama – by Bloomberg in 2005, who called him the Democrat’s “go-to guy on protecting the homeland.”
Yet, although he was elected governor twice by wide-margins, O’Malley is registering 4th in his home-state’s presidential polls at a paltry 4%.
He’s blamed this repeatedly on the Democrats not having any debates yet and not having as many scheduled as the Republicans.
That talk led The Washington Post to write it’s “put-up-or-shut-up” for O’Malley on Tuesday, although the publication also wrote he could be the wild card since he’s been firing shots at Clinton along the campaign trail.
“I think right now most people in the Democratic Party think they only have two choices,” O’Malley acknowledged during an interview, per the Post.
Webb served as a Virginia senator from 2007-2013 and was also Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan from 1987-1988. One of his more well-known moments was a speech he delivered as a response to President George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address.
He is considered to be the most conservative candidate of the five – even though one had switched over from the Republican party, more on that later – and he is against the nuclear deal with Iran and gun control.
Webb was also staunchly opposed to the Iraq War and is a proponent of prison reform.
At the very least, Webb’s centrist stance will further the debate dominated by candidates much further to the left. His positions will also put him in easy position to take shots at Clinton and Sanders without sounding insincere.
Chafee is registering just 0.3% of the primary vote, so like the others, he’ll need a big coming out party Tuesday to salvage his campaign.
Chafee actually served in the Senate as a Republican from Rhode Island from 1999-2007, taking over his father’s seat. After he lost a reelection bid in 2007, he ditched the Republican party and became an Independent. In 2010, he was elected governor of Rhode Island and joined the Democratic party in 2013.
When he was a senator, Chafee was one of the most liberal Republicans serving and was further to the left than some of the more conservative Democrats. He wants to expand the Head Start education program, raise the minimum wage and increase paid leave.
Perhaps most interesting, the former Rhode Island governor wants to install the metric system, TIME reports.