Let what happened in Vegas stay in Vegas. The biggest fireworks produced by the first Democratic debate erupted not on the stage but in dueling media interviews by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.
While Hillary Clinton's foes barely laid a glove on her, Gabbard, a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, mixed it up with the DNC's chairwoman. Gabbard said there were too few Democratic debates, got disinvited from the Las Vegas event and engaged in a war of words with Wasserman Schultz.
"The issue here is not about me saying boo-hoo, I'm going to miss the party," Gabbard told CNN, the network that hosted the first Democratic debate. "The issue is one of democracy and of freedom of speech."
When Wasserman Schultz disputed Gabbard's account and chastised her for detracting attention from the presidential candidates, the Hawaii congresswoman basically said the DNC chief was lying. It was like Ted Cruz versus Mitch McConnell all over again. Wasserman Schultz didn't back down
Gabbard wasn't the first Democrat to suggest the party and even its presidential front-runner could benefit from the additional exposure that extra debates could provide, though after Tuesday's snoozefest she could be the last for a while. It's also not the first time Gabbard, a surfing enthusiast, has made waves inside the party.
Now in her second term, Gabbard is just 34 years old. A major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, she was deployed twice to Iraq. Her father is a former Republican and noted social conservative. Gabbard was once socially conservative herself, and she still sounds like most conservatives when talking about the war on terror.
Gabbard particularly dislikes it when fellow Democrats, including President Obama, refuse to identify the enemy as "a very specific faction of radical Islamic ideology." Too often, she has argued, the Obama administration attributes economic, political and materialistic motiviations where they ought to be focusing on the theological.
"Military 101," she once said on Fox News. "If you are at war, which we are, you have to know who your enemy is to defeat them."
"The administration still has not accurately identified our enemy," she said in January. "We must acknowledge that 9/11, as well as the recent violent attacks in Paris and elsewhere around the world, are rooted in Islamic extremism."
The lawmaker was an early skeptic of the Iran nuclear deal, though like most Democrats she eventually came around to the Obama administration's position and supported it. She nevertheless conceded she was doing so not because it was "a great deal, or even a good deal."
Gabbard was the subject of a flattering profile in the conservative magazine National Review. The article raised liberal hackles for describing the congresswoman as "exotic" and "beautiful," but its focus was on her relationships with the American Enterprise Institute and other national-security hawks in Washington. AEI's Arthur Brooks is quoted calling her "pragmatically strong on defense," Danielle Pletka expresses admiration and the piece's authors describe her as "one of the most hawkish Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee."
Meanwhile, liberals haven't always trusted her. In 2012, the progressive Daily Kos posted a dossier of what one of its bloggers described as her "curiously conservative and nepotistic network." It digs into her parents' socially conservative politics (particularly her father's work against same-sex marriage and civil unions in the 1990s), Republicans who donated to her campaigns and the political affiliations of some staffers.
A Change.org petition was briefly circulated asking EMILY's List to reconsider its endorsement of Gabbard in her first congressional race, calling her "a strong, outspoken opponent of rights for gays and lesbians."
Gabbard has said that her service in the military and experience fighting radical Islam convinced her to abandon social conservatism. "I love my parents dearly," she told Vogue, "but serving in the Middle East I saw firsthand the extreme negative effects when a government attempts to act as a moral arbiter for its people. It's not government's place to interfere, especially in those areas that are most personal — for a woman, her right to choose, or who a person chooses to spend their life with."
Some of the lessons from her military service also didn't sound especially hawkish, such as her description of Iraq as a "war of choice" where the U.S. did "some good things" but the cost was "immeasurable."
A Honolulu publication did a longer story on her evolution titled, "Tulsi Gabbard's leftward journey." That is, of course, the politically safer journey. In Hawaii, there are more opportunities for elected office as a Democrat. As a Democrat, there are more opportunities for liberals.
Though even at the end of a leftward journey, there is still notoriety to be gained from challenging the party line.