The stage is set for the first the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night with an extra podium should Vice-President Joe Biden decide to jump into the race at the last minute.
It may be the best announcement he could have hoped for, if he does, watched by millions. Else, there will be just five of them, with the focus mostly on the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.
Can she stand the grilling by the moderator and her rivals — on her vote for the Iraq war as senator and her recent flip-flop on transatlantic trade and investment partnership?
The other four are Senator Bernie Sanders, former governors Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee and former senator Jim Webb, a small field compared to the Republicans.
CNN, which is hosting the debate, doesn’t expect it to get the viewership it got for the second Republican debate that it also hosted — 22.9 millions. The first, by Fox, got 24 millions.
The self-styled star of the Republican debates, Donald Trump, who has claimed credit for the high viewership numbers, has announced he will be live-tweeting the Democratic debate.
“At the request of many, and even though I expect it to be a very boring two hours, I will be covering the Democrat Debate live on twitter,” he said in a tweet Tuesday morning.
Action on the stage, however, is likely to be dominated by Clinton, whose candidacy has been troubled by on-going controversy about her use of a private email server.
She was slow to acknowledge it as a mistake and apologize, as was also pointed out by President Barack Obama in a TV interview on Sunday. Her poll numbers suffered as a result.
Sanders, who describes himself as a Democratic Socialist, has emerged as Clinton’s closest rival. Sanders is leading the Democratic field in New Hampshire, an early primary state.
But he trails Clinton by a wide margin nationally, raising questions about his appeal. He is expected to thus try and broaden his appeal Tuesday, look more presidential.
Of the remaining three candidates, O’Malley is expected to try and make the debate his break-out moment — to get noticed, and catapult his campaign to a better place.
Webb and Chafee have faced serious name-recognition issues and will be watched how they advance their cause. Chafee may continue attacking Clinton on Iraq as he has in the past.