Gabbard 'biggest question mark' going into Ohio debate, says veteran political journalist

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Gabbard, Buttigieg battle over use of military in Mexico MORE (D-Hawaii) is the biggest “question mark” going into Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, according to veteran political reporter Paul Steinhauser. 

"She's very unpredictable," Steinhauser told Hill.TV on Tuesday.

Steinhauser pointed to Gabbard's standout performance in the July debate, where she challenged Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Gabbard, Buttigieg battle over use of military in Mexico Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (D-Calif.) over her record as a prosecutor.

"What will she do tonight — who will she go after," he said. "A lot of people are scratching their heads and wondering what will happen."

The veteran journalist noted that Gabbard is also likely "hungry for some attention" after missing the September debate, noting that Gabbard has yet to qualify for the fifth Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta next month. 

“For a lot of these candidates, this may be the last chance to be in front of that large national audience,” he said.

Gabbard is set to take the debate stage along with 11 other Democratic contenders in Ohio, despite previously threatening to boycott the event.

“I just want to let you know that I will be attending the debate,” Gabbard said in an email to supporters ahead of the Tuesday debate.

Gabbard had met the qualifying criteria for this week's debate, but considered skipping it over what she characterized as a lack of transparency in the qualification process.

The Hawaii lawmaker previously accused the Democratic National Committee of trying to “hijack the entire election process.” She later doubled down on these comments in an interview with Hill.TV, saying the DNC’s debate qualification criteria posed a “very serious threat to our democracy.”

—Tess Bonn