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The 8th Democratic Presidential Primary Debate: “Maybe It’s the Opie Taylor Thing He Has Going On”

Democratic Presidential Candidate former South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Friday, February 7, 2020, hosted by ABC News, Apple News, and WMUR-TV at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola).

Michelle Bernard is a political analyst, lawyer, author and president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy.

One week after Iowa, the winner of the night was ABC’s Linsey Davis. Her performance in the two debates she has co-moderated easily make her my top choice for our next commander in chief. She’s brilliant, no-nonsense, gets to the point, forces the candidates to answer the question asked and asks the questions that really matter to the American public. She is a woman who appears to be quite capable of beating Donald Trump. If only she were a Democratic candidate. Better yet, if only the DNC adopted rules that would allow a supremely qualified African American woman to take the stage. But it’s 2020, so despite my wishes, even if Davis could be coaxed into joining the madness that is the 2020 presidential campaign season, the DNC would have erased her as it did Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Julián Castro.

So, since she’s not a candidate, it looks like the winner of the night was—(think obligatory drum roll here)—Buttigieg. And possibly Sanders followed by Klobuchar.

As for Biden, it’s not looking good at all. In fact, it’s looking really, really bad. The Obama magic seems to work only when Biden is standing literally next to Barack Obama. In Obama’s absence, substance aside, there is a certain “je ne sais quoi” about Biden that doesn’t seem to bode well for 2020.

Back to Buttigieg: Maybe it’s the Opie Taylor thing he has going on. Whatever it is, at least for the time being, it’s working. On every issue raised, he consistently delivered a message that combined empathy, respect for the American people and hope for the future that the other candidates just miss the mark in expressing. When he spoke of Medicare, I actually wanted to listen. When the others spoke about Medicare, I wanted to turn off the television. It was like this for every issue discussed over the course of the near-three-hour debate. Maybe the key to 2020 is not beating Donald Trump at his own game. It’s beating him by giving all Americans someone and something to believe in again.

This article originally appeared in Politico Magazine on February 8, 2020.

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