PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It was unclear at first if former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee would even be in the first Democratic debate because of low poll numbers.
But Chafee will join four other candidates – including Hillary Clinton – on stage Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
The debate will be the first chance for Americans to see all five Democratic candidates debate the big issues – and Eyewitness News analyst Joe Fleming says it will also be a chance for Chafee to get his message out.
“I don’t personally think Lincoln Chafee thinks he’s going to be the nominee for president. But he wants to get his opinions known,” said Fleming.
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According to Fleming, Chafee will likely talk about the environment, the Iraq War, and his departure from the Republican party. Fleming said he thinks it is going to be easier for Chafee to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton than from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
“On a lot of issues in the Senate, Bernie Sanders and Lincoln Chafee voted the same way,” Fleming said.
The most recent CBS poll puts Clinton at 56% and Sanders at 32% among Democratic voters. Fleming says Chafee, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will be chomping at the bit to overtake Sanders as the alternative to Hillary Clinton – who has been plagued by an email scandal for her entire campaign.
“She just can’t shake the email scandal. The longer that stays, the more that hurts her,” Fleming added.
When it comes to Vice President Joe Biden – Fleming said if he does decide to throw his hat in the ring, he could take a lot of Clinton’s supporters, making it a closer race between Biden, Clinton and Sanders.
“Hillary Clinton’s grabbed a lot of people that would have been Biden’s in the past,” he said.
There is a podium standing by, just in case Biden joins the race before Tuesday’s debate.
Fleming said Rhode Islanders probably won’t get behind Chafee, who had low approval ratings when he left office. He is predicting the Democrats will sling fewer personal attacks than the Republicans, focusing more on the issues at hand.