Your cheat sheet for tonight’s Democratic debate

It’s the Democratic Party’s night to shine as the first debate airs tonight, live from Las Vegas at 9 PM Eastern on CNN.

It may seem like we’ve all been down this road before, but this is the very first debate for Democrats,  and it’s bound to look a lot different from the Republican debates (except for the fact that it only features one woman among of sea of white men — that’s the same).

For those of you planning to watch tonight’s spectacle, here’s what you need to know before you settle in for two hours of arguing, interrupting, and nervous tics.

The candidate: Hillary Clinton

Fast facts: Former Secretary of State, appointed by President Obama in 2009. She served as Senator in New York from 2001 to 2009, and was the First Lady to President Bill Clinton from 1993- 2001. She also won a Grammy in 1996 for the audio version of her book, It Takes Village.

Her stance on the issues:

Climate change, “We need to take bold action to combat climate change, create jobs, protect the health of American families and communities, and make the United States the world’s clean energy superpower.”

LGBT Equality: “We should ban discrimination against LGBT Americans and their families so they can live, learn, marry, and work just like everybody else.”

Women’s Rights and Opportunities: “What’s good for women is good for America. … As far as I’m concerned, any issue that affects women’s lives and futures is a women’s issue.

Healthcare: “Affordable healthcare is a basic human right.”

What she needs to accomplish: As the only woman on the stage, she needs to prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that she is the best Democrat for the job. She has to overcome her cold, robotic reputation and appear likable, relatable and electable. She also needs to get out from under the shadow of the email scandal plaguing her campaign right now.

The candidate: Bernie Sanders

Fast facts: Sanders served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, from 1981-1989 and as a U.S. congressman from Vermont from 1991-2007. He has been a U.S. senator from Vermont since 2007. He also is quite a bit of a folk singer, producing a five-track album in 1987

His stance on the issues:

Wealth and income inequality: “There is something profoundly wrong when we have a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans working longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest childhood poverty rate of any developed country on earth.”

Fighting for women’s rights: “We are not going back to the days when women had to risk their lives to end an unwanted pregnancy. The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government.”

Fighting for LGBT equality: “In many states, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay. It is legal to deny someone housing for being transgender. That is unacceptable and must change. We must end discrimination in all forms.”

Free college tuition: “It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades.”

What he needs to accomplish: He has to prove himself a worthy contender to oppose Clinton, and show that he can hold his own in a debate that is sure to be long and grueling. He also must claw his way back from the “I’m not a capitalist” comment he made on Meet The Press last week.

The candidate: Martin O’Malley

Fast facts: O’Malley served on the Baltimore City Council from 1991-1999 and was Mayor of Baltimore from 1999-2007. Most recently, he served as governor of Maryland from 2007-2015.

O’Malley is the frontman for a Celtic rock band called O’Malley’s March.

His stance on the issues:

American wealth: “Increase American families’ median net worth by $25,000 in 10 years.

Renewable energy: “Generate 100% of American electricity with renewable energy by 2050”

Unemployment: “Cut the unemployment rate among young people in half in three years.”

What he needs to accomplish: O’Malley needs to make a name for himself and remind America that he’s even in this race. With polling showing he’s only pulling 4% of his home state of Maryland, he’s got a lot to prove in the debate.

The candidate: Jim Webb

Fast facts:Webb is a Marine Corps vet who served as assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs from 1984-1987 and as U.S. Secretary of the Navy from 1987-1988. The former Republican then ran for a senator seat as a Democrat. He served as a U.S. senator from Virginia from 2007-2013. Webb won an Emmy in 1983 for his work producing a PBS special on the Lebanese Civil War.

His stance on the issues:

Economic fairness: “I would agree that we cannot tax ourselves into prosperity. But we do need to reconfigure the tax code so that our taxes fall in a fair way.”

Foreign policy: “First and foremost, if a President wishes to conduct offensive military operations, he – or she – should be able to explain clearly the threat to our national security, the specific objectives of the operations, and the end result he or she wishes to obtain.”

Criminal Justice reform: “This is not a political issue; it is a leadership issue. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Since I doubt we have the most evil people in the world, many now agree that we’re doing something wrong.”

What he needs to accomplish: He’s in a similar situation as O’Malley in that he’s got to get to recognition. Couple his anonymity with the fact that he hasn’t attended a lot of campaign events, and his credibility starts to wane. He needs to use the debate to assure voters he’s serious about the election.

The candidate: Lincoln Chafee

Fast facts: Chafee served as a Republican Mayor of Warwick from 1993-1999, and was appointed to fill his father’s U.S. Senate seat in 1999 after his dad’s death. Chafee was elected U.S. Senator from Rhode Island in 2000 and served a full six-year term as a Republican. He then ran for Governor of Rhode Island as an independent and won, holding the position from 2011-2015. Now, he’s running for president as a Democrat. Chafee was one of 23 senators to vote against the Iraq War.

His stance on the issues:

Environmental stewardship: “ I will work tirelessly to significantly reduce greenhouse gasses, and will not approve the Keystone pipeline.”

Freedom for all Americans: “ I will never allow any American’s personal liberties to be diminished, including a woman’s right to control her own personal reproductive decisions. And the Federal government should never torture prisoners or tap people’s phones without warrant.”

Prosperity through peace: “I want to restore American prestige by working with our partners in the United Nations to pursue strategic international agreements that reduce tensions, increase security, attack climate change, and promote civil liberties and fair trade.”

What he needs to accomplish:

Similarly to the other lesser known candidates, Chafee needs to prove WHY he wants to be president. He hasn’t really found his voice, so the debate is a chance for him to promote his own point of view.

While these are the set candidates, there is still a small chance that Vice President Joe Biden could turn up. He’s been hinting at a 2016 run for weeks now, but America is still guessing about whether or not he’ll actually do it.

Check out the Democratic debate and see if it can give its Republican counterpart a run for it’s money in entertainment value. Oh, and get informed too.

[Images via Shutterstock and YouTube]

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