Commentators: Who can win this?

Tonight’s debate is the heavyweight card, with four of the top-polling candidates sharing the stage (Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg). I realize I’m howling into a void, but please, please Democrats, save some tiny space in your big brains to think about the voters who are not already committed to every lefty position. 

Before you come out for, say, single-payer weed or free health care for endangered snail darters, think about the people in places like Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio who made Barack Obama President. They can do the same for you. You just have to give them an acceptable, sensible alternative to Donald Trump. 

Last night’s Democratic presidential debate, on the other hand, was like having a debate during Katrina and hardly mentioning water. 

For most of the debate Donald Trump was Lord Voldemort: he who must not be named. The Democrats were policy-heavy because, well, they’re Democrats. 

Elizabeth Warren dominated the early part of the debate with sharp, concise, populist economic plans. Amy Klobuchar emerged as the midwestern voice of reason. Julián Castro shoved his way into the spotlight with some good lines, then turned on his fellow Texan, Beto O’Rourke. Castro would have been more credible if he hadn’t been campaigning for Beto a few months ago, and if he’d focused his fire on the real problem: President Donald J. Trump.

There is only one issue, as I said before these debates, and it is the narcissistic, misogynistic, racially-divisive, pro-Putin grifter in the White House. To be fair, Klobuchar marbled sharp criticism of Trump into several of her answers, but she seemed to be the only one capable of recognizing the obvious.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee got the crowd roaring with the line of the night — I think it was in Hour Seven — when asked what he thought was the greatest national security threat to the United States. Inslee said, “The greatest threat to America is Donald Trump.” 

At home I cheered too. Then slunk into a funk when I realized it took so long for someone to finally acknowledge that water is wet.  

Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House. Follow him on Twitter @PaulBegala.

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