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JIM VIBERT: Who in this field can beat Donald Trump?

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former vice-president Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar and billionaire activist Tom Steyer listen as Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during in the eighth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Feb. 7, 2020. - Brian Snyder / Reuters

Who in this field can beat Trump?

Even as Democrats and independents in New Hampshire pondered the only question that really matters, it became yet more urgent. This week, the president put his Twitter finger on the scales of justice and four career federal prosecutors quit in protest.

They walked after Trump's minion at the U.S. Justice Department, Attorney General Bill Barr, pulled their recommendation of seven-tonine-years in jail for Roger Stone, the political gadfly and longtime Trump friend and ally. Stone was convicted on multiple counts of perjury, obstruction and witness tampering related to the investigation of Russian interference — in Trump's favour — in the 2016 presidential election.

Barr barged in after Trump's tweets heaped scorn on the legal proceedings, and especially the recommended sentence. In more lucid times, presidential interference in a criminal case against a crony would trigger all manner of dire consequences for the president.

But, protected by 52 gutless Republican senators, Trump has immunity from the laws of the land to augment his impunity from the dictates of decency.

And so clear-eyed Americans, who understand that their nation is only America so long as it is ruled by laws — and not by an autocratic tyranny that's taking hold bit-by-inexorable-bit — cast about for a winner among an eclectic group of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The frenetic 100 days of state primaries and a few quirky caucuses have just begun, but a self-described social-democratic senator nearing 80, and the 38-year-old gay, former mayor of a small mid-western city are leading after the first two contests in very white, very small states. Can Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator or Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., beat Trump? Don't write them off, but they seem to fit into the doubtful column.

Barack Obama's vice-president, Joe Biden, has relinquished his front-runner status after poor finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire reflect his sub-par performance on the stump. Old Joe — he's 77 — was prone to verbal self-immolation when he was a much younger man. He hasn't improved with age. Thus far, he's looked like anything but a Trump-beater, but he's hanging around hoping for a resurgence in more diverse states. Whatever grip he had on the nomination is slipsliding away.

Former New York city mayor and mega-billionaire Michael Bloomberg is about to join the contest in earnest. For weeks, his money — more precisely, the advertising it buys — has been softening up Democratic primary voters for his Super Tuesday debut.

Bloomberg was counting on Biden to falter, creating space for him to swoop in and gather up the Democrats' moderate middle. If, once he's in the race for real, he can convince Democrats he's the guy to beat Trump, his strategy and his billions may pay off.

Bloomberg will need to overcome his record of support for stop-and-frisk, the disreputable practice of the NYC police that targeted black citizens, in much the same way as street checks do in Canada.

Bloomberg, who's also 77, will acquire some scar tissue once Bernie draws a bead on him. Sanders doesn't much like the political advantages bestowed on billionaires.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar gained some momentum with a strong third in New Hampshire and could be the dark horse the Democrats ride all the way to the White House.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's poor showing next door in New Hampshire makes her attempt to loosen Bernie's grip on the party's so-called progressive wing appear increasingly futile.

Americans in Atlantic Canada can vote in the Democrats Abroad Presidential Primary on March 3 — Super Tuesday — from six to 11 p.m., at the Pint Public House on Argyle Street in Halifax. They can also vote by email beginning March 1.

Despite his record as a serial liar, his climate change denial, his assertion that white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Va. included some fine people, his characterization of nations in Africa and the Caribbean as shitholes, his separation of children and parents at America's southern border, his labelling of the news media as “enemies of the people,” his preference for Putin's explanation over that of America's intelligence agencies, the Access Hollywood tape that confirmed his sexual predation, and on it goes, Trump somehow remains a formidable candidate for re-election.

To beat him, the Democratic nominee will need to energize the party's base the way Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012. Democrats must emerge from their July convention in Milwaukee united behind their candidate, and that candidate can't be the weakened, last standing survivor after a brutal primary process. They need a candidate with appeal to middle America, working people and suburban voters.

Right now, there isn't a candidate in the field that checks all those boxes, and that's cause for concern. But it's too early to panic, yet.


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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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