LAS VEGAS — Could Vice President Joe Biden, mulling a challenge to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president, make a surprise appearance at the debate here tonight?

Speaking to reporters at the Wynn Las Vegas just hours before the first televised showdown of the five announced candidates for president, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid poured cold water on that idea.

“No,” the Democratic Senate leader replied. “Joe won’t be here tonight.”

Biden is not scheduled to debate but is said to be in the final stages of deciding whether to enter the contest.

Asked if he thinks the field would be improved if Biden joined the race, Reid declined to say what he thinks.

“He’s got a lot of good people around him,” Reid said. “He’s got a wonderful family. I enjoyed all my time in Washington with Joe…He doesn’t need my advice. I’m looking forward to the debate tonight. Five of my friends are debating. They’re all competent. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I look forward to it.”

CNN, the host of the debate, has invited Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb to participate Tuesday evening.

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