Conservative bewildered after Democrats form a ‘circular firing squad’ at debate instead of going after Trump
President Donald Trump, pictured February 11, 2019, is widely seen to have suffered politically more than Democrats over the shutdown fight. (AFP/File / Nicholas Kamm)

The first round of the Democratic primary debates took place last night in Florida. The candidates mostly stuck to policy issues, like health care and immigration, avoiding attacks on President Donald Trump.

On Thursday, conservative columnist Charlie Sykes appeared on an MSNBC panel about the debate. Sykes warned that Democrats were making a mistake by skewing left and failing to pin Donald Trump on the multiple controversies bedeviling his administration, from his erratic approach to Iran to a credible rape allegation against him by the writer E. Jean Carroll.

"The Trump people are very, very happy this morning," Sykes said. "The way the Democrats are positioning themselves outside of what they regard is the mainstream of American politics."

"Donald Trump doesn't need to win this election -- he needs for Democrats to lose it," he added.

He also pointed out that Democrats were hurting their chances by going after one another instead of Trump.

"I think that was extraordinary -- the fact that they didn't go after Donald Trump more," he said.

"The Democrats cannot resist the temptation to form their firing squad."

He noted that the Democratic candidates need to demonstrate that they can take on Trump.

"This debate should be the audition for who can take on Donald Trump," Sykes said.

"They're taking positions that are going to get them through the primary, but that are like an albatross in the general election."