Here’s the real Democratic debate: Which one can defeat Donald Trump?

OK, but who can win? 

In a marathon day, congressional Democrats led explosive hearings to consider whether the House should impeach President Donald Trump — with almost no expectation that the Republican-controlled Senate would then vote to remove him from office. 

During a slow-starting Democratic debate in the evening, 10 presidential hopefuls finally got animated when they argued about how they would defeat Trump — amid nervousness among many in the party that they could hand the president a second term by nominating the wrong person.

“The issue isn’t what is the fight; the issue is, how are we going to win?” Sen. Kamala Harris of California said, suggesting that Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, wouldn’t be able to generate strong turnout among African Americans, the party’s most loyal voters. “We have to rebuild the Obama coalition.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar questioned whether Buttigieg’s tenure as mayor of a small, Democratic-leaning city meant he could win in red and purple states or govern in Washington. “He said the right words, but I have the experience,” she said. “I think experience should matter.”

‘I thought you might have been high’: Quips from candidates and other top moments from the November Democratic debate

Buttigieg was ready for that charge.

“I know that from the perspective of Washington, what goes on in my city might look small,” he said. “But frankly, where we live, the infighting on Capitol Hill is what looks small.” The focus on Buttigieg reflected his remarkable rise to the front of the field in the opening states of Iowa and New Hampshire since the last debate, in October. That made him a target.

But the tone of the debate, sponsored by MSNBC and The Washington Post, was largely civil, and the candidates’ efforts to draw sharp distinctions with one another more subdued than in previous forums.

That may have reflected the sobering effect of the impeachment hearings, which have convinced many Democrats of two things: that Trump committed impeachable offenses, and impeachment is not likely to remove him from office.

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