Pour out a 40 for Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris, two “top tier” candidates who recently exited the race for the Democratic Party nomination. The debate tonight in Los Angeles, the sixth in this interminable, gaffe-filled, weirdly depressing primary battle, has been pared down to seven qualifying combatants.
This is the stage of the horror movie when the few surviving campers band together in the canoe shed, build a booby trap out of fishing tackle and a lantern battery, and plot strategies for escape. We get to know the lead actors better thanks to longer dialogue scenes, and we may even get a romantic subplot before the bloody climax.
In this second-to-last debate before Iowa and New Hampshire, the big horse-race question revolves around the campaign of Elizabeth Warren, who allegedly needs what pundits call a “moment” tonight to reverse a poll slide. On the flip side, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s rise in Iowa and New Hampshire polls should inspire other candidates to look for a weakness in his increasingly cheeky exterior throughout the broadcast.
Otherwise, the debate will be too long, as all debates are. At least it will provide some respite from Mike Bloomberg campaign ads. Beyond that, we drink, as usual. Follow @mtaibbi on Twitter for debate commentary and drinking-game action. The official rules:
DRINK EVERY TIME:
1. Someone begins an address with “Look,” “Here’s the deal,” or the drinking-game standby “Let me be clear.”
2. There are 30 minutes or more of airtime without Andrew Yang being called on. Double if he is forced to raise both hands or interrupt someone else’s turn.
3. Amy Klobuchar tells a humanizing anecdote about herself.
4. Someone points out that “no one is above the law.”
5. We hear any of the following: “threat to national security,” “accountable,” or “the sanctity of our elections.”
6. Someone asks, “How are we gonna pay for that?”
8. Anyone uses a formulation of “almost Medicare for all” or “Medicare for almost all,” e.g., “Medicare for all who want it.”
9. Candidates fight over who is more for-impeachment than the other.
10. Moderator Yamiche Alcindor asks a passive-aggressive question of Bernie Sanders. Double if she or anyone else compares him with Jeremy Corbyn (questions about the viability of progressives in light of the U.K. vote count).
11. Joe Biden speaks a sentence of more than five words and fails to make sense. Double shot if he loses his train of thought and gives up mid-sentence (better known as the “Check, please” rule). Finish your bottle and turn off the TV if he misidentifies his current geographical location.
12. Someone tees off on Warren with a version of “At least Bernie is honest about the unrealistic-ass policies he supports.”
13. A candidate confronts Buttigieg: “Please respond to my ostensible outrage over your policy positions while I subtextually complain about your rising poll numbers.”
14. Bernie reminds us that he wrote the damn bill.
15. Cory Booker or Julián Castro tweet about the racial imbalance onstage.
If the game is slow, you may also drink every time you see Tom Steyer and do not remember what his name is or what his deal is. As always: Do not politics and drive.