- - Thursday, August 1, 2019


It takes uncommon stamina to run a marathon, and to finish. Winning takes something else again — endless tenacity juiced with the irrepressible confidence of, well, Donald Trump. The contest for the U.S. presidency requires these attributes, plus a four-leaf clover for good luck. With Democratic contenders for the 2020 election now catching their breath following their party’s second series of televised debates, it’s clear some contestants have the inside track and others are tripping over their shoelaces. This week’s second round of debates demonstrated all are on the wrong track.

The first of the two 10-candidate debates in Detroit Tuesday night featured CNN moderators Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Don Lemon pitting stragglers against leaders over hot button issues that included health care, immigration, gun violence and climate change. The grouping’s far-left front-runners, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, held off surges from their no-quite-as-far-left competitors with angry rebuttals and frenetic hand gestures.

The same trio of questioners turned directly to the health care debate on Wednesday, as former Vice President Joe Biden faced off against Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, arguing for more than three-quarters of the first hour over whether Americans should be able to keep their current health insurance coverage or be driven into a government-managed system that would replace remnants of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Lesser-knowns clamored for a chance to endorse the Democrats’ prescription for bigger government and higher taxes.

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, a moderate, called out the far-lefties for “bad policies like Medicare for All, free everything, and impossible promises that will turn off independent voters and get Trump re-elected.” For his troubles, he earned a rebuke from Mrs. Warren who said, “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

The U.S. Constitution regards “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as unalienable rights. To these, Democrats have added universal health care. Green Mountain Care in Mr. Sanders’ home state was discarded as too expensive, yet each candidate is pledging some form of government-guaranteed health care proposal, generically described as Medicare for All.

Neither promise nor prayer can produce the trillions annually that would be required to provide citizens, not to mention illegal immigrants, with the medical coverage Democrats are proposing. Americans are simply not going to spend upwards of half of their paychecks on health care. Democrats who dispute this are more disingenuous than Barack Obama when he promised voters Obamacare would save the average family $2,500 a year.

The long road to the White House exacts a cost that not everyone can pay, and certain competitors are running on fumes. Judging from their recent stage performance, among those falling behind the pack are former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mr. Booker.

Like an undone desperado shouting from an upper-story ledge, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio elicited the classic campaign-killing vow: “For 40 years the rich got richer and they paid less and less in taxes. It cannot go on this way. When I am president we will even up the score. We will tax the hell out of the wealthy to make this a fairer country.”

The debate stage in September may feature more elbow room as trailing candidates fall by the wayside. To be included, contestants will need backing from at least 2 percent of voters in four polls and 130,000 donors in 20 states. Only seven have met the requirements thus far: Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren, Ms. Harris, Mr. O’Rourke, Mr. Booker and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Polls by Emerson and Morning Consult prior to the Detroit face-offs showed Mr. Biden leading the field with 33 percent of Democratic voters making him their first choice. Emerson had Mr. Sanders in second place with the backing of 20 percent and Ms. Warren in third with 14 percent.

Competition to extinction is never a pretty sight, but it is nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the fittest. If the Democrats’ top political marathoner proves to be a loony lefty, they might as well, in the words of Mr. Hickenlooper, “Fed-Ex the election to Donald Trump.”

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