Seven candidates for the Democratic Party's nomination in the U.S. presidential race take to the debate stage Tuesday night in the southern state of South Carolina.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has the momentum of a resounding victory in Saturday's Nevada caucuses, along with a lead in the overall count of delegates that candidates need to amass in order to be selected as the Democrat to go up against President Donald Trump in November.
Front-runner status can make a candidate a target for the others in the debate, but public opinion polls in South Carolina may turn some of that focus on former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden sits third in the delegate count after scoring a second-place finish in Nevada — his best so far since voters began having their say this month. Polls show him as the favorite in South Carolina, several points ahead of Sanders.
Polling also points to a potential opportunity for billionaire Tom Steyer to have his moment in the Democratic race with a level of support he has not yet seen. Yet to win a single delegate, polls showed him third in South Carolina, ahead of former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Tuesday's debate is not only a chance for the candidates to make an impression on voters in South Carolina, but also on those in some of the states voting March 3 that allow people to cast their ballots early.
March 3 is set up to be a critical date in shaping the race with voting in 14 states along with the U.S. territory American Samoa. A total of 1,357 delegates are at stake, compared to the 54 in play in South Carolina.
Not on the ballot in South Carolina but taking part in the debate there is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who decided not to contest the February states in favor of focusing a massive media campaign on the March 3 states.
He participated in his first debate last week in Nevada, drawing sharp attacks from his opponents who criticized his approach as trying to buy the nomination, while he countered he is the best choice to oppose Trump.
The Democratic Party will formally name its presidential candidate at a convention in July. Republicans will nominate Trump at their convention in August.