Democratic presidential hopefuls to debate Tuesday

9NEWS at 4 p.m. 10/12/15.

KUSA - The Democratic presidential candidates take the stage in Las Vegas Tuesday night for their first debate.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in the lead for the Democrats but and Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn't announced he's running, is gaining numbers in the polls. But people are growing impatient about the pending announcement of if he's running or not.

Biden said he won't be at the first Democratic debate, but CNN is keeping a podium ready in case he makes a last minute decision to show up.

9News political analyst Floyd Ciruli says Biden will stay on the sidelines until the debate is over. If Hillary Clinton doesn't do well as expected and Bernie Sanders gains ground, Biden could jump in.

"Then you watch Mr. Biden," he said. "That's one of the triggers that would set off a panic within the Democratic party."

Sanders is growing in popularity -- including drawing a 9,000 person crowd in Boulder this weekend -- but Ciruli says Democrats don't think he can beat a Republican.

"I think the party in general does not believe that Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate for the general election," he said.

But the Vermont senator will get his chance Tuesday to show voters on a national level what he's about along with Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Some possible debate topics could help both front runners.

"Fundamentally, what they're going to talk about is inequality, income inequality in particular. That's Bernie Sanders' strength and that's where Hillary Clinton I think has been playing catch up," Ciruli said.

But Clinton has been laying out policy proposals for other top issues.

"Gun control will be a big one. Hilary thinks she has an advantage on gun control. Bernie Sanders hasn't been that strong," he said.

The Clinton email controversy is another issue guaranteed to be brought up but Ciruli said he would be surprised if she didn't handle the tough questions well during the debate.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll, Clinton leads the Democrats with 46 percent and Sanders is at 27 percent.

Tuesday's event could change the numbers just like it did for some Republican candidates during the first two debates. Carly Fiorina was dragging in the polls and got a boost after going head to head with other presidential hopefuls.

(© 2015 KUSA)


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