Round three of the Democratic debates is coming up and unlike last time’s overcrowded two-night train wreck, this debate will be a still-slightly overcrowded one-night train wreck.
For three whole hours, standing on stage before the American people to outline their visions for the nation, will be 10 of your favorite candidates from the Democratic field. As for the rest? Well, Tom Perez and the DNC came up with a new system where a certain level of performance in polls that they deem to be “qualifying” is necessary to have a spot onstage. As you may be shocked to find out, some people just didn’t make the cut. And those who did, with one notable exception, all seem to be what I like to call “superdelegate-approved.”
John Delaney, who so eloquently spoke about, I don’t know, something, will be notably absent from the stage. Marianne Williamson, who for one glorious moment became the most Googled person of the 2020 campaign, will no longer see her candidacy dawn like the age of Aquarius. And Tulsi Gabbard, who offered the most brutal takedown of Sen. Kamala Harris by questioning her record as a prosecutor, has been barred from going on the attack — even as the RealClearPolitics average has her polling ahead of both Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former HUD secretary Julian Castro, who, just to clarify, will both be on stage.
Unfortunately for these candidates, all good things must come to an end. I personally still mourn the end of President Swalwell’s candidacy and took great displeasure in peeling the Gillibrand-Inslee bumper sticker off my car. But just because some of our favorites are down for the count doesn’t mean that Thursday night won’t be any fun. In fact, in looking at who will be onstage, you’d be kidding yourself if you expect this to be anything other than a very combative night.
Standing center stage, flanked by the two progressive powerhouses of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, will be Joe Biden. Even if he could miraculously find the exit without any help, it wouldn’t really matter. Poor Ol’ Joe will have no escape as the progressives (and everyone else) fire all they’ve got to finish off the already embattled “frontrunner.”
The odds are that Ms. Warren lands the most punches as she has the most to gain from knocking Sleepy Joe off the top spot. But only a few of them are likely to hit hard as she’ll spend most of her energy talking down to the nation as if it were a room full of her 1L’s.
Much like the first time around, Ms. Harris probably has a fantastic one-line hit ready that’s aimed directly at Sleepy Joe. With her oversized and underpaid social media team waiting anxiously for the exact moment to hit “Tweet,” she’ll just have to hope Joe notices the attack and tries to respond. The more he talks, the better she looks.
Bernie will scream into the microphone and, if it’s a good night, also throw his hands up in the air. My guess is he’ll try to stay above the fray to further paint himself as the candidate speaking for the concerns of the 99 percent instead of someone playing political games to satisfy donors from the 1 percent of the 1 percent of the 1 percent (of the 1 percent?). However, I doubt there’s going to be any new material we haven’t already heard coming from Crazy Bernie, so he may need to come up with something else to give away for free just to keep up the hype.
As for the rest of the people onstage who will be dropping out right around the South Carolina primary, I imagine the discussions will range from attacking the president to a swing and a miss at Sleepy Joe with big promises sprinkled in — like using taxpayer dollars to fund health care for illegals. If anyone has a chance of standing out, it’s probably Robert Francis O’Rourke. In his home state, candidate Pitbull will have the opportunity to again remind his voters why his losing Senate run and the chance to lose again to a different candidate would “not be good enough for this country.” But be warned, Beto — no matter which language you choose, the Democratic National Committee already warned you not to swear. So play nice.
A last hope I have is that Andrew Yang, someone the DNC planned to be done with by this point, actually gets a chance to speak. In the spirit of his “Math”-based campaign, it’s important to note that out of the 124 minutes and 8 seconds candidates were speaking during the night of his debate, Andrew spoke for only 8 minutes and 53 seconds — about 7 percent of the total speaking time. For the party that prides itself on new ideas and inclusion, there should be a little more airtime given to someone this new to the game doing this well — especially as he’s not “superdelegate-approved.”
Whether you’re rooting for a candidate or rooting for it to be over, Thursday’s debate is certainly poised to be entertaining. So as you watch the candidates pontificate about tax hikes to pay for “Medicare for All” and a “Green New Deal,” just remember — one of them will eventually debate Donald Trump.
What a show that will be.
• Corey R. Lewandowski, President Trump’s former campaign manager, is a senior adviser for the Great America Committee, Vice President Mike Pence’s political action committee. He is co-author with David Bossie of “Trump’s Enemies” and “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency.” Follow him on Twitter @CLewandowski_.
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