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Democrats to Hold First Debate in 2016 Presidential Race


Democratic presidential candidates, clockwise, from top left, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee.

After watching Republican candidates spar in two rounds of debates, Democrats looking to become the next U.S. president get their turn Tuesday as they take the stage in Las Vegas for their first debate of the 2016 election campaign.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her status as the front-runner in the Democratic race will put her in the center of the debate, both literally and figuratively, as she stands in the middle of the four other candidates taking part.

Recent polls put Clinton ahead with about 40 percent support, while her chief challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, comes in at 25 percent.

In stark contrast to Republican race, the Democrats have spent far less of the campaign talking about each other, leaving Tuesday's debate as an intriguing forum for their policies and records to be compared and contrasted.

The size of the field is another marked difference, with Clinton and Sanders being joined by former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee.

Photographs of Democratic presidential candidates hang on their debate podiums a day before the CNN Facebook Democratic Debate at the Wynn Las Vegas in Nevada, Oct. 12, 2015.
Photographs of Democratic presidential candidates hang on their debate podiums a day before the CNN Facebook Democratic Debate at the Wynn Las Vegas in Nevada, Oct. 12, 2015.

The latter three candidates have struggled to earn even 1 percent in recent polls.

That makes Tuesday night important for them since the Democratic National Committee is only scheduling six debates for its presidential candidates, half the number the Republicans will hold.

The debate might be the best chance for O'Malley, Webb and Chafee to establish themselves before the possible addition of another well-known figure in the race, Vice President Joe Biden, who will not take part in the debate but is still deciding whether to run for president.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll released Monday showed 48 percent of Democrats surveyed wanted Biden to join the race.

If he were running, the poll said Clinton would still be the leader, with Sanders running second and Biden in third, with 17 percent support.

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