Am I not allowed to call Elizabeth Warren a socialist because she claims she’s a capitalist, even though her policy plans are indistinguishable from Bernie’s?

C’mon. By that logic, we’d have to call her a Native American.

8 p.m. ET on CNN, the first group of 10 for the second Democratic debate converges for a three-hour descent into madness. And this group happens to have more in common than just the fact that they all want to give free health care to illegals on your dime. Democratic diversity will … not be on display tonight:

I think Beto counts as 1/1,024th Latino. In case you can’t identify everyone there by sight, it’s:

Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren
Pete Buttigieg
Beto O’Rourke
Amy Klobuchar
John Hickenlooper
John Delaney
Steve Bullock
Tim Ryan
America’s sweetheart, Marianne Williamson, who is certainly not a “wacky new-age nutcase”

Five of those candidates are no-shots and two, Klobuchar and O’Rourke, are once potentially serious contenders who are on the cusp of no-shot status. It may be early but the stakes tonight are high, notes Byron York:

To make it onstage [for the third debate in September], candidates will have to “receive two percent or more support in at least four polls (which may be national polls, or polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada),” according to the DNC. The committee went on to list several specifications for the polls themselves to make sure the candidates can cite support in legitimate surveys.

Beyond that, the DNC says, candidates must show they have received donations from at least 130,000 unique donors, plus at least 400 unique donors in at least 20 states. Together, those rules will eliminate a lot of current Democratic candidates.

Right now in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, just seven candidates are polling at 2% or higher: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, and Beto O’Rourke. If they stay that way, they will be in the September debate.

Another way of putting that is that fully seven of the 10 candidates onstage are likely fighting for their campaign’s lives, trying to make enough of an impression to clear the bar for an invitation to debate three. That means they’re all incentivized to let it rip — including Beto, whose hold on two percent is no longer steady and who’s surely hoping to claw back some of the “fresh-faced white guy” bloc that migrated from him to Buttigieg some months ago. We’re past the introductory phase of the campaign. Tonight’s the night to show Democratic voters what you’ve got. It’s basically the left-wing version of “America’s Got Talent,” befitting the fact that we elected a game-show host president last time. CNN’s treating it like a game show too:

The Beto/Buttigieg showdown is one plot line, obviously. The other, even more obviously, is Sanders and Warren sharing the stage for the first time and competing for progressives. Will they attack each other or play nice and let the chips fall where they may among lefty viewers? Warren must be tempted to needle Bernie over his labor troubles lately. And Bernie may have no choice but to come after Warren to reverse the trajectory of the race, which has seen her slowly but steadily gobbling up his support. He’s still second to Biden in the RCP poll of polls but she’s right behind him.

Another question: How much of the debate will be defined by theatrical condemnations of Trump?

[A]fter Trump’s comments about multiple lawmakers of color in the past two weeks, including telling minority congresswomen to “go back” to the countries from which they came, there’s a higher chance that the candidates feel more urgency to contrast themselves with the president, if only in terms of their character.

“It’s in the moderators’ interest to put everyone on the record about that, whether it’s about Ilhan Omar or Cummings,” one senior Democratic campaign official, who like others in this story spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid, told me. “I think campaigns are preparing to respond to those because you want to show that you have the cleanest rebuke of his comments of everyone. It’s really a matter of showing you can hold your own and aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with Trump.”

Because Democrats kept their focus on Trump to a minimum the last time around, the president hardly engaged in real time, with “BORING!” being among his few tweets over the course of the two-night debate. But should moderators bring any of Trump’s recent attacks to the forefront, he is likely to punch back from afar.

Attacking Trump may be Beto’s core strategy. His guests at the debate are several black high-school football players from Texas who kneeled for the anthem last season in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. Beto’s single most “viral” moment from the Senate campaign against Cruz was a defense of the right to kneel during the anthem. His plan may be to avoid squabbling with Buttigieg and the others and try to out-woke them instead, elevating himself by picking a fight with Trump. Probably won’t work but he’s running out of ways to distinguish himself.

Comments are open below. If you’re in need of a rooting interest, root for a breakout performance by Williamson, as her all-you-need-is-love shtick is the only thing that could liven up this exceedingly dreary primary. By the way, the rules tonight call for candidates not to interrupt each other; if they do they’ll be penalized by having their speaking time reduced, although whether Jake Tapper and the other moderators really intend to enforce that rule is anyone’s guess. Why would CNN want to *discourage* angry interruptions at a big game-show spectacle?