Democrats still gambling on Hillary Clinton to win the presidency in 2016 should pay close attention to the first Democratic debate in Vegas today. Martin O'Malley is going to be the game changer in this debate, no matter what he does, or doesn't do.
Make no mistake, O'Malley needs to have a game changing performance. Expect him to charge hard at front-runner Clinton as well as the stalking horse Bernie Sanders. He may end up having a stellar performance, he may not. In either case, the fact that he's suddenly going to be part of the narrative, matters. Here's why.
O'Malley can make a difference to the race by having a good debate and chewing into Hillary Clinton's supporter base. That would weaken her relative to Sanders and also the non-committal, not-in-the-race Joe Biden. If this becomes a 4 way race, even with O'Malley at the bottom of the totem pole, the race tightens.
Of course the supporters that shift to O'Malley could come more from Biden and/or Sanders supporters. That would only help Hillary Clinton's lead, which seems to shrink with each subsequent poll. That too changes the face of the race. Does Biden stay out if his support base shrinks, or if Hillary's lead widens? Or does he stay out even if his support remains unchanged but O'Malley has such a strong showing as to indicate a sudden momentum?
The third scenario is one in which O'Malley does not distinguish himself as relevant (i.e. he pulls a Scott Walker). While this is less likely, O'Malley could stumble or fail to impress, even though he's geared up for this to be his shot, his launch pad. But suppose he does nothing worthwhile, doesn't that provide the impetus for Biden, who has been sitting on the sidelines until after this debate passes, to hop right in and join the fight? O'Malley may be the reason Biden has not yet declared himself a candidate.
Tonight, despite all the distasteful socialist, progressive and liberal rhetoric, will be a game changer and conservatives should pay attention because more so than any GOP debate so far, this will affect the race in a major way. Conservatives should be prepared for their eventual opponent be it Hillary or anyone else and this debate could very well be the beginning of determining who our opponent will eventually be.