OK, pop quiz: Without Googling, how many Democratic candidates are currently running for president? If you said five, you are right — and you know a lot more about the field than the average American. Alongside Hillary Clinton and unexpected rising star Bernie Sanders, three relatively unknown candidates are hoping to make a splash on the debate stage. Their names are Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, and Martin O'Malley — a former senator and two former governors, respectively, and they want to be more than state politicans with awesome, novelesque names. All three announced their candidacies earlier this summer, and all three have failed to get much notice. Collectively, they rack up less than 3% support in the polls. So who are they? Jim Webb
The most interesting is probably Webb, who has generated the most internet searches of the trio. He's a former senator from Virginia and a retired Marine Corps officer. Of those polled, about 2% of Democratic voters said they'd support Webb, while fewer than 0.5% said they'd go for either Chafee or O'Malley.
Webb speaks proudly about his military service and might use it as a point of contrast: He's the only veteran among the Democratic candidates. And he's got an interesting, bipartisan role on his résumé: He was Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. As a senator, Webb voted for prison reforms that would reduce overcrowding, and he criticized the Iraq War. He's in favor of reproductive rights for women and is for marriage equality, but he would support the Keystone pipeline and deeply opposes the current deal with Iran. He's also a novelist, the author of over 10 books, and he wrote and produced the 2000 movie Rules of Engagement. And Webb won an Emmy for a report on the Lebanese Civil War. Heading into tonight's debate, many see him as the candidate most likely to make a splash. Martin O'Malley
O'Malley, who announced his candidacy in May, looked like an early favorite: At one time this past spring, many expected him — not Bernie Sanders — to be giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money. But he's failed to generate much press. Right now, O'Malley is coming in fourth…even in his home state of Maryland. Yet the two-term governor of Maryland does have some secrets. He's a dyed-in-the-wool liberal with a hidden talent: He can play guitar and sing. The governor's campaign ran a sweepstakes earlier this year in which the winner won a song, perfomed for her by the candidate himself.
Chafee spent most of his political career as a Republican and comes from a long line of GOP politicians, but the former Rhode Island senator and governor left the party in 2007. His defection might be less of a sign of his changing opinions than a result of the rightward shift of the Republican Party — although Chafee was the only GOP senator to vote against the Iraq War, and had been openly critical of George W. Bush. As far as fun facts go, Chaffee went to farrier school (that means he can shoe a horse), and if he wins, he would be our second President Lincoln, sort of.