An Insiders' Guide to the Democratic Debate: How the Underdog Candidates Are Preparing to Face Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee will take on Hillary Clinton at the first 2016 Democratic debate

Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty; Jim Cole/AP; Alfredo Sosa/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty; Paul Sancya/AP; Steven Senne/AP

Hillary Clinton has stolen the spotlight in the 2016 election, but the other Democratic presidential hopefuls will finally get their chance to shine at Tuesday night’s debate.

Here’s how the underdogs are preparing for the first Democratic debate of 2016.

Bernie Sanders: the ‘loud’ one
The Vermont senator, 74, is rapidly outgrowing his dark-horse status and is expected to take Clinton to task at the debate – but this time, staff members hope, with his “indoor voice.”

The booming bark that has been so effective at rallies could prove off-putting in a debate setting, Sanders’ senior adviser, Tad Devine, told the Guardian.

“[His] experience of doing Sunday shows, being asked substantive questions in a live television environment – which is not a shouting environment, which is a talking environment – he’s done a lot of that and I think the debate is a lot like that,” Devine said. “Just because you are standing at a podium doesn’t mean you should give a speech. You need to really think about this, as though you were sitting at a table talking to somebody.”

That said, Devine added, “I don’t think Bernie is going to be a guy who is going to be milquetoast. If someone wants to challenge his record or challenge his issues, he is going to be vigorous on both. These things can get heated sometimes.”

Bottom line: Look for Sanders to turn down the volume – but not the heat.

Martin O’Malley: the rock star
The former Maryland governor, 52, clearly isn’t sweating the debate. The Huffington Post caught O’Malley singing and playing guitar at the Beat Coffeehouse and Records in Las Vegas during a recent open mic night.

He’s not feeling the pressure, O’Malley campaign spokeswoman Haley Morris confirmed to Slate. “This is a great opportunity for the governor to introduce himself fully to the Democratic Party. And it’s an opportunity for him to put his record of delivering progressive results next to everybody else.”

Bottom line: The debate will serve as an “enhanced introduction” for O’Malley, his campaign said.

Jim Webb: the stealthy one
The former Virginia senator, 69, is one of the night’s biggest wildcards – and he’s playing his cards close to his vest.

Webb has done very little campaigning since announcing his presidential bid in July and it looks like he’s not about to start now.

“Eisenhower didn’t yap about D-Day in advance,” the former Army secretary and Vietnam veteran told Time when asked how he was prepping for the debate.

Bottom line: His debate strategy remains a mystery.

Related Video: Scandal Star Guillermo Diaz Supports Hillary Clinton for President

Lincoln Chafee: the scholar
The former Rhode Island governor, 62, took to his Instagram to post a photo of himself enjoying his debate prep essentials: coffee and a newspaper.

Chafee has been laying low ahead of the debate (and indeed, throughout his entire presidential campaign thus far). His aide, Debbie Rich, told Yahoo he would not be making any public appearances in the five days leading up to the debate.

But he did take to Twitter on Wednesday to share that his supporters had the best grammar on Facebook, according to a new study by the grammar-checking website Grammarly.

Chafee may not have much going for him in this race but he does have some harsh words for Clinton – and unlike Sanders, he just might let them fly during the debate.

The bottom line: We’ll have to wait and see.

And as for Hillary, well…

She’s been ready since high school.

Related Articles