“There’s more anxiety than ever,” said a Democrat in the Times this week about the spreading contagion of Democratic primary anxiety.

The quotee was Connie Schultz, wife of Senator Sherrod Brown, who is being urged by friends to jump into a race he has already eschewed once. He’s not the only one.

It is almost November and many Democrats are nervous that Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders will, well, lose next year to Donald Trump if they are nominated. The second-guessing and white knight-hunting is gearing into full swing. And the media, alert to the storyline, is keeping things fluid.
The trigger was last week’s debate, in which Biden was unimpressive and Elizabeth Warren got roughed up for her Medicare-for-all plan.

The “Is-Warren-Too-Liberal?” question, which has been hanging in the air for a while, broke out into the open after the debate. “Elizabeth Warren hits some turbulence,” ran a Washington Post headline.
Horse race coverage is in flux. The rise of Warren, the theme of the past month, has been ditched; now the storyline is about alternatives to Warren and her two fellow frontrunners.

“It sure feels like Buttigieg and Klobuchar have wind in their sails,” reported Elena Schneider in Politico , the race’s zeitgeist scorecard. “Energetic crowds greeted them in the first caucus state soon after — including voters who said they were looking for alternatives to Joe Biden,” she reported.
The Times concurred. Monday belonged to the senator. “In Iowa, Amy Klobuchar Gets a Second Look After Debate,” was the headline over Trip Gabriel’s story. “Seeing her in person just closed the deal for me,” a human resources manager named Kundel Vogel told Gabriel.

Wednesday belonged to Mayor Pete. “As a Centrist Path Opens, Pete Buttigieg Moves Toward It,” headlined Reid Epstein’s story in the Times.

The polling has not been consistent, however. In the span of 24 hours, Quinnipiac said Warren had “vaulted” to a 7-point lead over Biden, while CNN had Biden leading Warren by 15 percentage points. The yawning discrepancies allow reporters to indulge in endless flavor-of-the-week stories.

Our favorite read was a Q&A in about Buttigieg’s post-debate media boomlet.

“I think the narrative is mostly bullshit ,” said Nate Silver. “To say there’s been a big Buttigieg surge is so far from reality that, if you simply  glance at a table of polls , it almost feels like gaslighting.”

Much as they love Buttigieg, many journalists remain skeptical. “He’s so very strong but so crucially weak — which is the story of the Democratic primary, whose leading candidates are all agonizingly unsafe bets,” anguished Frank Bruni , under the understated headline “The Agonizing Imperfection of Pete Buttigieg.”

The inevitable hunt for a centrist savior has cranked up. “Is There Anybody Else?” Jonathan Martin’s Times story inquired. The answer was yes – plenty of heavyweights are waiting in the wings, eager to be asked if and when the timing is right, led by Hillary Clinton and Michael Bloomberg.

George Will, no fan of Trump’s, chimed in , saying that if the party (to which he does not belong) nominates one of the “grown-ups” in the race, whom he identified as Klobuchar and Michael Bennet, “Trump’s removal, which Democrats insist is their sovereign objective, would be assured.”

Will’s assessments of Bernie Sanders and Warren ranged from contemptuous to sexist. “Her persona, that of a hectoring schoolmarm, can be grating,” Will wrote, “but is less so than his, which recalls Dorothy Parker’s description of Katharine Hepburn: ‘She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.’”

The motivator for this overheated conversation is, of course, Donald Trump, whose White House has been emitting an especially sickening odor of corruption, incompetence and cruelty as the prospect of impeachment grows. Every day brings a new reason to hate the man and fear for the country. It’s legitimate to be terrified by the prospect of his winning another four-year term.

It’s open season, folks. Put forth your favorite candidate and make the case that he or she can win. People will be desperate to believe you’re right.

“There’s no other way he’s going to be in the center of the national discourse every single day. So you take this gig, you take the good with the bad. And, you know, the bad is you may be liable for a whole variety of shit. And the good is you go out famous.” - Former Rudy Giuliani adviser Rick Wilson, asked by Politico to explain what has happened to his former client.

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