Ready to debate: A guide to the Democratic 2016 candidates

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File

In this Oct. 7, 2015 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Republican presidential contest has been aflutter for months, with all that preening and cackling from an overcrowded colony of rivals. Now it’s time for the Democrats to spread their wings before a big national audience, with their first debate, Tuesday night. AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File

In this Oct. 7, 2015 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Republican presidential contest has been aflutter for months, with all that preening and cackling from an overcrowded colony of rivals. Now it’s time for the Democrats to spread their wings before a big national audience, with their first debate, Tuesday night.

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. Use this handy field guide to get a handle on the candidates and where they stand.

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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.

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.

Might Clinton be for you?

Perhaps yes, if you prefer a Democrat but with a more aggressive foreign policy than Obama.

Perhaps no, if you want a candidate who isn’t already mired in investigations (Benghazi, and therefore emails).

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

In a nutshell:

Establishment. Early favorite. Second-timer.

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