Watch: Who is Bernie Sanders, what's his pitch?

Washington: The Republican presidential contest has been aflutter for months, but now it's time for the Democrats to spread their wings before a big national audience. Their first debate is Tuesday night on CNN, 8:30 pm Eastern Time. Here is a guide to the top  candidates.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Key features: Nearly everybody recognizes her. She's the only candidate who's lived in the White House already, as first lady.

 Watch: Who is Bernie Sanders, whats his pitch?

Hillary Clinton

A quick sketch:

Daughter of a fabric store owner and a homemaker living in the Chicago suburbs

Met her future husband and future president, Bill Clinton, at Yale Law School

After serving as first lady, elected to U.S. Senate from New York

Early Democratic front-runner in '08, she lost presidential nomination to Barack Obama

Won both praise and criticism as Obama's first secretary of state

Also of note:

A steady drip is wearing on Clinton's air of invincibility as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. The troubles include Clinton using a personal email account and server while at the State Department; the fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, on her watch; and big donations from foreigners and political supporters to the Clinton family's charitable foundation.

Some other distinguishing issues:

Wants to make public universities affordable and community colleges tuition-free

Wants to build on Obama's health care law and lower the costs of prescription drugs and insurance deductibles

Opposes an Obama initiative that she once supported: the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal

Favors a more aggressive foreign policy than Obama.

In a nutshell:

Establishment. Early favorite. Second-timer.

Bernie Sanders

Key features: He's an independent senator from Vermont who calls himself a Scandinavian-style democratic socialist.

A quick sketch:

Bernie Sanders/ AP

Bernie Sanders/ AP

Son of a Polish immigrant father; raised in Brooklyn with the accent to prove it

A student civil rights activist at the University of Chicago in the '60s

Unseated the Democratic mayor of Burlington, Vermont, by 10 votes in 1981

Elected to U.S. House in 1990, he's Congress' longest-serving independent

An early and vocal opponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003

Also of note:

Sanders has called both the Democratic and Republican parties tools of the wealthy.

Some other distinguishing issues:

Create a "Medicare for All" single-payer universal health care program

Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour

Make tuition free at public colleges and universities

Has declared income inequality "the great moral issue of our time."

In a nutshell:

Liberal. Populist. Politically independent.

Updated Date: Oct 14, 2015 02:31:08 IST