The Atlantic Politics Daily: A Self-Funding Chaos Factor Joins the Debates

Tom Steyer—whose platform centers on climate change and impeachment—has spent his way onto the debate stage. Plus: the search for the next AOC

Today in Politics

Tom Steyer could shift the center of gravity in the Democratic presidential race as others run out of money. (MEG KINNARD / AP)

A New Factor at the Democratic Debate: Impeachment

Twelve Democratic presidential candidates squeeze onto one stage tonight outside of Columbus, Ohio, for a fourth primary debate.

It’s these candidates’ first such encounter since the whistle-blower report that launched an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, accused of pressuring Ukraine to investigate 2020 rival Joe Biden, as well as Biden’s son Hunter.

Here are a few things we’ll be watching:

1. Who’s the new guy? The billionaire Tom Steyer—whose platform centers on climate change and impeaching Donald Trump—has spent his way onto the debate stage. Our reporter on the trail, Isaac Dovere, spent time with Steyer and tries to parse his motivations.

+ Need a refresher on the other candidates? Open up our cheat sheet as you watch tonight.

2. How’s the other guy? Bernie Sanders is back after a heart operation. The news of his hospitalization earlier this month received blaring coverage, but the procedure he underwent is also one of the most common in the U.S., James Hamblin notes.

3. The debates have unified almost everyone … against the debates. Isaac reminds us: “It’s the worst system, except for all the others.”

4. Ohio, the backdrop for this debate, could be competitive for the Democrats—at least the right one. Ron Brownstein sorted through the polling and data from earlier this year and charted two strategies for Democrats in 2020.

Argument of the Day

Smoke rises from the Syrian side of the border, as pictured from the Turkish town of Akcakale. (DEMIROREN NEWS AGENCY / REUTERS)

The bipartisan criticism of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria has solidified around one word: betrayal.

The betrayal of the Kurds fits into a longstanding pattern, but the consequences are deadly, Peter Wehner argues in this fiery essay:

When the consequences are the serial humiliation of Cabinet secretaries and White House aides, they are easier for Trump’s political supporters to rationalize or overlook. But as the professor Robert King once declared, “Betrayal is a garment without seams.” The danger is far plainer when the victims of Trump’s betrayal are longtime American allies facing deadly force.

→ Read the full argument here.

+ More from Peter: In July, he dug into the evangelical support for Trump: “There’s a very high cost to our politics for celebrating the Trump style,” he writes, “but what is most personally painful to me as a person of the Christian faith is the cost to the Christian witness.”

Other Races to Watch

Jessica Cisneros is mounting a primary challenge to Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas. (COREY TORPIE / THE ATLANTIC)

In Texas: The organization that sent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the House is backing a 26-year-old immigration attorney, Jessica Cisneros, for a Texas seat. The Justice Democrats now hope to run a similar playbook with Cisneros. We spoke with Cisneros.

In Virginia: The state’s Democratic leaders have had a scandal-ridden year; still, Democrats are close to turning the state entirely blue. Russell Berman reports from the ground on how next month’s elections there will serve as a bellwether for the so-called “blue wave.”

Before You Go

Is that Joe Biden or Woody Harrelson on the left? (NBC)

Biden his time on Saturday Night Live: Debates have traditionally been rich material for the weekend sketch show, which has taken to celebrity drop-ins as a crutch. But:

Casting [Woody] Harrelson might end up backfiring, as it did for SNL with Baldwin—if Biden were to win the presidency, the show would need to keep him around as a recurring presence.

→ Read the rest from our critic David Sims.

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. Today’s edition was written by Shan Wang. You can reach us with questions, comments, or concerns anytime by replying directly to this email.

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