It is wise for us to look at the Democratic candidates challenging Hillary Clinton in the primary election as serious contenders because, just like Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton might not be anywhere near the top of polls in a couple of months. Although most people assume Hillary will win, all it takes is a few seconds in a debate for all that to change.
Who are they and what to look out for in the upcoming debate:
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
As Sanders tries to capitalize on his large crowds and leading position in some early state polls, his next big test will be in the upcoming Democratic debates, where the candidate who rose to prominence via small town exchanges before a handful of people will be up against one of the Democratic Party’s most seasoned debaters.
A review of Sanders’ past debates provides some window into the risks that Clinton faces in these showdowns. What he lacks in polish he makes up for with authenticity and energy, and former opponents of Sanders warned that Clinton should not underestimate him.
In one debate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pointed a crooked finger at an audience member and yelled at him. “Do you not believe me?” he barked.
In a separate exchange, Sanders leapt out of the seat and, defying the debate rules, dressed down his opponent: “It’s people like you . . . ,” he began, before being cut off by the moderator amid boos from the audience.
These moments are classic Sanders, according to interviews with those who have shared a debate stage with him over a 25-year career in statewide campaigns. He can get defensive. Insults lodge under his skin. He turns bright red and can display a flaring temper.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley believes there are “legitimate questions” that still need to be answered about fellow 2016 Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email system during her tenure as secretary of state, a scandal O’Malley said has been detrimental to the Democratic party.
“I believe that there are a lot of legitimate questions still to be answered about this particular controversy, the email, the email server, the FBI investigation and the like,” O’Malley told CNN’s Jake Tapper, reported The Hill.
O’Malley said the controversy threatens to distract from more important issues, which is why he says the Democratic National Committee needs to sanction more than six presidential debates.
“It’s so important that as Democrats we start having debates about other issues as well,” O’Malley said. “I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate questions to be answered here by Secretary Clinton, but for our part as a party, we need to talk about the things that will actually get wages to go up rather than down, that people care about around their kitchen tables…that’s why we need to have debates.”
“Otherwise, our party is being defined by Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, and it’s not good for our country,” he said.
O’Malley also criticized Clinton for waiting so long to announce her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, saying she shouldn’t “wait for focus groups” before making her positions known.
“I came out against the Keystone pipeline over a year ago. Why? Because I believe it’s contrary to our nation’s best interests of moving forward to a clean energy future,” O’Malley said, according to CNN.
“That’s what real leadership is about,” he added. “That’s the sort of new leadership we’re looking for. Not the sort of leadership that waits for poll numbers or focus groups or puts a finger in the air to see which way public opinion is going. No, that’s not leadership.”
Watch O’Malley’s interview on CNN
For those who do remember Chafee’s career, his entry as a Democrat may be at least a slight surprise. His father, John, was a Republican governor and senator and secretary of the Navy under President Richard Nixon. A great-great-grandfather and a great-great-uncle both also served as Republican governors of Rhode Island. Lincoln Chafee himself had served as a Republican local legislator, mayor of Warwick and senator — all as a Republican. He left his ancestral GOP in September 2007 and won his one term as governor as an independent in 2010.
Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against authorizing the use of force to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It was stunning to see him stand alone in 2002, except that he had been a lone dissenter on other issues of the 107th Congress — opposing tax cuts and voting against his own party’s budget. Other Republicans referred to him at times as “the missing link.”
The most important issue Chafee believes Clinton flip-flopped on is the Iraq War, and nothing animates him more than talking about his “no” vote — the only Senate Republican to vote against authorizing military action.
“The Iraq War is a perfect (example),” Chafee said, his arms raising as he talks. “Now, I did my homework. And now we live with the consequences. She (Clinton) did not do her homework and got it wrong. It was a bad vote.”
Clinton voted in favor of authoring military action in Iraq. The vote has hung with her since then and helped sink her 2008 presidential campaign against President Barack Obama.
During an interview with CNN, Chafee had two phrases scribbled on a scrap of paper in front of him: “Weakened our country’s standing in the world” and “set back our strategic interests in the region.” Both were used by Clinton in her recent memoir “Hard Choices” to describe the regret she felt after her 2002 Iraq vote.
“It was a huge mistake. People died, it cost us 6 trillion dollars,” Chafee said. “I know the media wants to move on, but I am going to bring this debate to the voters.”
Watch Chafee Blast Hillary Clinton
A centrist Democrat and economic populist, Webb, 69, served a single six-year term in the Senate during George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s presidencies before leaving politics to think and write; he was a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees and opposed the American military adventures in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere.
A true citizen-politician, he was also a highly decorated Marine first lieutenant during the Vietnam War—awarded a Navy Cross for heroism in combat—as well as a secretary of the Navy during Ronald Reagan’s administration; and if all that were not enough, Webb is also a critically acclaimed, best-selling author, whose 1978 war novel, Fields of Fire, sold a million copies and was adapted for a Hollywood epic.
As a senator, Webb was credited with sponsoring and shepherding the new G.I. Bill, which gave returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets improved education and other benefits for the first time since World War II. His last days in office were marked by efforts to reform the prison system, particularly mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
Watch Jim Webb interview on CNN
Should Hillary worry?
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