Post Opinions invited the Democratic presidential candidates not on the stage in Des Moines on Tuesday to add their thoughts to a key exchange in the debate. Here are the responses from five of them.

Michael Bennet

The moment: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says, “We need a candidate who will excite all parts of the Democratic Party, bring everyone in and give everyone a Democrat to believe in.”

In the debate, we heard a lot of talk about electability — about who is best positioned, on experience, track record and ideology, to beat President Trump. That’s the question that every voter is asking, and that’s what I have to offer.

I’m the only candidate in this race who has won two elections in a swing state that is a third Democratic, a third independent and a third Republican. That’s different from running in Massachusetts or Vermont.

In Colorado, you can’t win by making empty promises or fanning the ideological flames on social media. You win by building a broad coalition around a progressive, widely supported agenda.

For the past 10 years, I’ve heard the same story time and again in my town halls. People say they are working really hard but can’t afford some combination of health care, housing, higher education or early childhood education. They can’t afford a middle-class life.

​Americans aren’t asking for the sky. They are too resilient for that. What they want is for the people they love to live dignified lives. I have a vision for America that achieves this aspiration and that every Democrat should be proud to run on.

It’s called the Real Deal — a progressive, paid-for, popular set of plans that will address the hopes and worries of the middle class and those aspiring to get into it.

Every 3- and 4-year-old would have access to preschool. Every family with kids would receive at least $3,000 a year, paid out monthly. Every worker would have paid family and medical leave. The 70 percent of Americans who graduate from high school but don’t earn a four-year degree would have the training to earn a living wage, not just the minimum wage. Millions would have access to new jobs in clean energy and infrastructure.

This approach calls for a renewed set of politics — a politics that brings unlikely voices into conversations that have excluded them for too long. It’s a politics that can not only galvanize our Democratic base, but also win back the 9 million people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and then for Trump.

If Democrats run on this ambitious, comprehensive agenda, we will win races up and down the ballot in November. If we mobilize that support to champion policies that are responsive to families across the country, we can make lasting progress.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) thinks he is the person to unseat President Trump in 2020. Here's what he says motivates him. (The Washington Post)

Mike Bloomberg

The moment: None.

The presidential debate had a notable absence. No, I’m not talking about me.

I’m talking about the lack of discussion regarding one of the most urgent challenges facing the country: gun violence.

More than 100,000 Americans have been killed by firearms since President Trump took office. That means some 100 men, women and children are losing their lives to this epidemic every single day. And yet these daily tragedies rarely receive national media attention.

Now, for the second debate in a row, the moderators have failed to even ask the Democratic candidates what they would do to end this crisis.

This is no doubt, in part, because some of the leaders on this issue – such as Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Kamala D. Harris – are no longer in this race.

I wasn’t in the debate either, because while I met the polling threshold, I don’t accept any campaign contributions, and the Democratic National Committee requires candidates to take outside money. I’ve never accepted a penny from special interests or anyone else, and I’m not going to bend my principles to get into the debates. But I hope the DNC will change its rules – and if it does, I will ensure that gun safety takes center stage in the next debate, no matter what questions are asked.

As a founder of Everytown, the largest gun-safety organization in the country, I’ve been on the front lines of this fight for years. In red states and blue states, we’ve taken on the National Rifle Association – and made real progress.

The country needs a president who is ready to lead on this issue, someone who will do whatever it takes to finally create an effective background-check system; keep guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others; protect young people in schools and Americans in their homes; tackle gun violence in the hardest-hit communities; and confront the gun industry head-on.

Common-sense gun safety proposals such as these are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. Reforms have been passed by the House. And they would be passed by the Senate, too, if Republican senators weren’t in the NRA’s pocket, just as the president is.

Well, the NRA can’t buy me. And as president, when it comes to common-sense gun reform, I will break through the partisanship in Washington and finally get it done.

John Delaney

The moment: Moderator Brianne Pfannenstiel, chief politics reporter of the Des Moines Register, says, “Let’s stay with the theme of America’s role in the world and talk about trade.”

The candidates’ discussion of trade policy was missing three letters: TPP.

A half-dozen people on the stage, and every one of them is wrong about trade, something that President Barack Obama got right. The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations would have been good for the U.S. economy and for American farmers and would have increased prices for our major agricultural exports. But before it could be ratified by Congress, President Trump pulled the plug in 2017.

The 11 remaining TPP countries moved on without us. Thus the United States lost a chance to bolster economic ties with major allies that could have been used for further global collaboration, and we sacrificed a framework that would have helped the United States compete with – and win against – China.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership had the strongest environmental and labor standards of any trade agreement ever negotiated. It was Obama's top economic priority in his second term, and I was proud to be one of the leaders on it in Congress.

Democratic voters deserve to know if their candidates have an Obama trade policy or a Trump trade policy. When it comes to trade, much of the field is just like Trump: stuck in the 1980s. Here’s what I’d do: Get back in the TPP, end Trump’s tariff fights and focus on real problems, such as intellectual-property theft and China’s military aggression in the South China Sea. My trade policy is a modern vision for global engagement, one that would help Democrats to win in rural America.

Deval Patrick

The moment: Moderator Pfannenstiel asks about the climate crisis.

Addressing climate change is a moral imperative as well as a matter of human survival — we must take immediate action to head off catastrophic damage to our planet’s climate. As president, I will prioritize climate change from day one. I will push immediately for major action that moves us to a carbon-free future, as we work in collaboration with nations around the world to address the threat.

A flourishing innovation economy helps us address climate change. Developing solar, wind and other generation alternatives, as well as ever-better strategies for energy efficiency, is essential to moving quickly to a carbon-free future. It also creates a market opportunity for new companies, new jobs and new exports.

And rather than seeing the future as a threat, we can shape our own future, and we can do it in a way that expands opportunity for working people and people who live in communities where they feel American enterprise has forgotten them. And we will bring along people who are employed in the oil, gas and coal industries, and ensure justice for Americans in communities disproportionately affected by climate change.

As governor of Massachusetts, I confronted this challenge head-on a decade before many other political leaders were even paying attention to this issue. Others have big plans for taking on the climate challenge; I have results.

We developed a national model for addressing climate change by working with our neighboring states on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a successful cap-and-trade program; planning for and investing in resilience and recovery; closing coal-fired power plants; and building a solar, wind and energy-efficiency sector. We did all this without raising taxes and doubled clean-energy employment to more than 100,000 jobs in less than a decade. My plan sets the nation up for the same experience Massachusetts had, and will put us all on the path to a carbon-free future.

Andrew Yang

The moment: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says, “The real question is, how do we beat Trump?”

The debate addressed many subjects that are of great importance to the American people and will need to be addressed by any campaign that is going to beat President Trump: foreign policy, health care, child care, climate change.

But unfortunately, we weren’t treated to a discussion of the fundamental economic realities that got Trump elected: that 4 million manufacturing jobs have been automated away in recent years, including thousands right there in Iowa, and many of the affected communities never recovered. We’re about to do the same to millions of retail workers, call center workers, truck drivers and on and on through our economy. The American people see the stores closing and communities transforming as the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes hold. Too many Americans feel left behind and uncertain about the future.

Without a focus on the real problems, the debate discussion didn’t address how we must rewrite the rules of the 21st-century economy to work for American families. While corporate profits surge to record highs, so have financial insecurity, stress, anxiety, debt, substance abuse, mental illness and suicides.

Business-formation rates among young people are at record lows, as are their rates of getting married and having children. This is a country where 78 percent of us are living paycheck to paycheck, and 57 percent are one $500 emergency away from sinking below the water line.

Decades of neglect, of bowing to special interests and losing sight of the purpose of economic advancement, must be addressed. Fundamental problems require transformative solutions, such as a Freedom Dividend of $1,000 per month for every American adult that would give millions of families a foundation and a real path forward.

We need to rewrite the rules of the 21st-century economy with solutions powerful enough to make it work for us. We didn’t hear about those solutions at Tuesday’s debate. But we will when the people start voting on Feb. 3.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang says he'll build a "dream team" of "tremendous people" to solve U.S. and international problems. (The Washington Post)

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