This coming Tuesday, CNN will host the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 election season. Anderson Cooper will moderate the debate between five of the Democratic nominee candidates, giving the public the first opportunity to not only hear the front-runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in public conversation with one another, but also to become familiar with some of the lesser known candidates who have not been garnering as much media attention or raising as many funds. The other candidates who will join Clinton and Sanders in the debate are likely to be Jim Webb, Martin O'Malley, and Lincoln Chaffee (there is also some possibility that Joe Biden could participate in the debate). Most of the debate talk time will be given to Clinton and Sanders, but we'll also want to pay attention to Jim Webb during the first DNC debate.
While it doesn't seem likely that the former Senator from Virginia will overtake Clinton and Sanders in the polls, or even close, Webb's opinions still matter insofar as his perspective could challenge Clinton and Sanders, and bring additional layers of discourse to the debate. Webb holds opinions and a record that differs from both Clinton and Sanders on certain hot button issues, and for that reason, we'll want to pay attention not only to what Webb says, but how the other candidates react to him, mostly on the issues where Webb is not as liberal as his fellow candidates. Because he is so different from Clinton and Sanders, Webb's centrist attitude could steal the show.
He's Had A Low Profile So Far
At the moment, there's a lot of mystery surrounding Webb's campaign, as he hasn't been particularly visible to the public since announcing his campaign over the summer. Mother Jones reported on Friday that nearly all of Webb's campaign events have been large scale events, such as the Iowa State Fair, and that Webb has only made one appearance in New Hampshire.
Because Webb has been so under the radar so far, it's hard to tell what his overall intentions and goals are for his presidential campaign. The debate will be an opportunity to discover what may be in store for the remainder of Webb's campaign.
Webb Holds Different Stances On Several Issues
Webb is also quite different from his fellow Democratic candidates on several issues, which could make for some interesting debate fodder.
The Keystone Pipeline
Webb supported building the Keystone pipeline, an issue for which Clinton has avoided taking a firm stance one way or the other. If this issue were to arise during the debate, opinions from Webb could potentially force Clinton to choose a side.
Webb is actually quite conservative on the issue of gun control. In 2007, Webb voted to ban the registration and trigger lock laws for guns in Washington D.C. The language in the act that Webb co-sponsored included "Nothing in any provision of law shall authorize the Mayor, or any governmental authority of the District of Columbia, to prohibit possessing firearms by a person who is allowed to possess firearms under federal law."
Webb has been very critical of President Obama's approach to dealings with Iran, and felt that Obama was not being tough enough during negotiations. Clinton backed Obama's Iran deal, so a foreign policy discussion between Webb and Clinton could get heated.
The Democratic debate will be a whole lot smaller and, without the addition of Donald Trump, likely quieter than its GOP counterparts — but that doesn't mean it'll be anything close to boring. And in between watching Sanders and Clinton face off for the first time, keep one eye on Webb. You might just be surprised.