Iowa voters are famous for taking their time every four years to decide which candidate to support, often insisting on a dutiful process of meeting several contenders in person before making up their minds. But this year is different, with many Democrats here so paralyzed by the fear of choosing the wrong candidate in the first-in-the-nation nominating contest that they are finding it impossible to make up their minds.

Let me see if I can help.

Dear caucus voter:

The good news is that you are scared of exactly the right thing: picking a candidate who will not lose to President Trump. There is no criterion more important in your selection process because, as long as Trump is in office, we will be in danger from a reckless commander in chief, a president utterly unfit to lead, a uniquely corrupt and authoritarian politician, a leader who pits Americans against each other and a chief executive who makes reform and constructive change impossible. You therefore have figured out the one metric that matters more than anything: Who can beat Trump handily, thereby carrying the Senate majority and preventing a dangerous constitutional brawl over who won the presidential election.

One way to tell who the most electable candidate is to look at how things stand now. Who matches up best against Trump in head-to-head polls? In state and national polling, former vice president Joe Biden consistently does best.

Another way to assess electability would be to consider which candidates can win states Hillary Clinton could not, either because she could not turn out enough of her base and/or because she had become toxic after decades of Republican attacks. If you want to see what kind of candidates in the Trump era do well in critical swing, mostly suburban districts, look at the 2018 midterm election results. Not a single Democrat endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) flipped a seat from red to blue. It was moderates who won across the country, many with military backgrounds.

We know from polling like the Blue Wall Voices Project: “Most swing voters in these states see bans on fracking, stopping detainments at the U.S. border, and Medicare-for-all as bad ideas.” We know voters across the board remain concerned about terrorism and want to maintain our alliances. We know the label “socialist” is going to turn off some voters.

You’re looking for someone who can drive African American turnout and do better in suburban areas (which means attracting college-educated whites, independents and soft Republicans). Remember that the nominee has to get all of Clinton’s supporters, plus others who stayed home or voted for Trump but now are disenchanted or even dismayed. Think of a Democratic friend or relative who didn’t vote in 2016 and a Republican you know who regrets his vote for Trump. Now think who might have a shot at winning both of them. Take note that Biden leads overwhelmingly among African American voters.

Finally, who is going to be sufficiently steady, gritty and clever enough to beat Trump? The nominee will need to land some punches and be able to defuse Trump’s taunts. He or she must know how to go for the jugular but also appeal to Americans’ longing for a president they respect. Look for a happy warrior with a steel spine.

You will notice what criteria I did not list: Age (although vitality matters) and gender. I did not suggest you look for the candidate who adopts your ideal policy solutions. (Hint: Neither the candidate’s nor your own ideal policy solutions likely will become law; most everything will be a negotiation and depend on which party controls Congress.)

In short, take a look at head-to-head polls, be wary of ideological extremists who frighten voters; think of the candidate who can both gin up the base and appeal beyond it; and look for a joyful campaigner with the energy and resilience to beat Trump.

Don’t screw this up. We’re all depending on you.

Best regards,

Nervous in D.C.

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