Washington, Oct 13 (IANS) Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and her four party rivals face off for the first time at Tuesday’s first Democratic primary debate with all her opponents hoping to challenge her aura of inevitability.
Ahead of the debate in Las Vegas, the former first lady and secretary of state remains the most popular Democrat with a 52 to 40 percentage advantage over her closest rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, according to the latest Gallup Poll.
However, Clinton’s 12-percentage-point advantage is less than half of her lead in late July, reflecting changes in both candidates’ images in recent months.
The three other Democratic candidates-former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Virginia senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee – are hardly known with their national poll numbers below one percent.
Barring a last-minute entrance into the race by Vice President Joe Biden, the debate’s attention is likely to focus on the two best-known candidates, Clinton and Sanders.
Sanders highlighted his “consistency” Sunday on NBC saying he’s been in sync with the party’s electorate on issues like trade and income inequality much longer than Clinton.
“So people will have to contrast my consistency and my willingness to stand up to Wall Street and corporations, big corporations, with the secretary,” Sanders said.
O’Malley too played up his record on issues like gun control and immigration telling CNN that “it’s about the doing, not the saying.”
“I’m going to lay out the vision … but also, 15 years of executive experience, which I alone will have on that stage, of actually accomplishing progressive things,” he said. “It’s not about the words, it’s about the actions.”
Clinton on her part has been playing up differences with President Barack Obama’s administration.
She has opposed Obama’s legacy making Trans-Pacific Partnership and argued for a no-fly zone in Syria. She also wants the administration to allow more Syrian refugees into the US and deport fewer undocumented immigrants.
Clinton and Sanders have already developed distinctly different constituencies within the Democratic base, but it is uncertain how these strengths could play out in voting in the Democratic primaries, Gallup said.
The performance of Clinton and Sanders in Tuesday’s debate-and Biden’s possible entry into the contest-may shake things up further, it said.
“As for the other three candidates, their inability to generate any traction with Democrats over the last several months suggests that this debate may be the point at which they turn their fortunes around, or totally fade into the background,” Gallup said.
Meanwhile, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump predicted Monday CNN won’t do badly in the ratings for Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, but they also won’t do great.
“You know, I think people are going to turn it on for a couple of minutes and then fall asleep,” Trump told Fox News.
“I don’t want to say this in a braggadocious way, but a person at CNN and a couple of other people said, ‘We have to put Donald Trump in this debate. We’re going to die with it.'”
The curiosity factor will help, Trump said, but added that he thought “a lot of people will turn off after a little while.”
As a point of comparison, the first two Republican debates in which Trump took centre stage drew 24 million and 23 million for Fox News and CNN, respectively.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)