The spotlight pivots away from the contentious Republican race and back to the Democratic campaign before the holiday pause.
The state of play: Hillary Clinton maintains a lead that seems impervious to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ popularity, which might have hit its ceiling. And Gov. Martin O’Malley hasn’t quite conceded, but he did say he wouldn’t mind being voters’ second choice.
So Clinton might be tempted to turn her attention to her Republican rivals. With the nation riveted by the threat of homegrown terrorism, she also might see this prime-time performance as a chance to showcase her foreign-policy credentials, which the two men on the stage can’t match.
The real question might be whether Sanders and O’Malley will try to highlight her vulnerabilities emphatically enough to prompt voters to give their candidacies a second look.