A detailed view of the boxing gloves ringside during day one of the Boxing Elite National Championships at Echo Arena on April 29, 2016 in Liverpool, England. 
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty

At this point in the Democratic 2020 race, the gloves remain on

With two dozen candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, it’s unrealistic to think the contenders won’t try to draw contrasts with one another. In fact, it’s a healthy part of the process: candidates challenge one another, debate one another, and argue why they think they’re better than their rivals. Some disagreements are as normal as they are necessary.

It’s against this backdrop that Axios reported over the weekend that the “attack” phase of the Democratic race is now underway.

The niceties have ended: 2020 Democrats are breaking their own pledge not to go after one another. The attacks of the past week show what a long primary they’re in for.

These jabs and skirmishes show a fracturing Democratic Party – exactly what some top Democrats wanted to avoid in order to maximize their chances of defeating President Trump. […]

[I]f the last week is any indication, the gloves have come off and we should expect more Dem-on-Dem attacks to come. And the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee will enjoy every minute of it.

At this point in the Democratic nominating contest, I tend to see a very different landscape. In fact, I think the Axios report has it largely backwards.

Let’s take the debate over the Hyde Amendment as an example. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign initially said last week that the Delaware Democrat hadn’t changed his mind about the policy, which prompted many of his 2020 rivals to make clear they feel differently on the issue. The rebukes were substantive and policy-focused, and soon after, Biden changed direction.

But to see this as evidence of “the gloves” coming off is to exaggerate the intensity of what transpired.

In fact, 19 contenders appeared at an Iowa forum over the weekend, and as the AP reported, some candidates made “veiled references” to the party’s frontrunner. And therein lies the point: if the references were “veiled,” it’s tough to make the case that “the niceties have ended,” and the “attack” phase has begun.

TPM added in a report yesterday, “2020 Democratic candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Beto O’Rourke, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) were asked about their rivals while being interviewed on various Sunday morning shows, but none of them took the chance to bash one another.”

And that’s because we’re still at an exceedingly polite stage in the process.

To be sure, there’s a long way to go, and we may yet see Democratic contenders take the 2020 race in a pugilistic direction. But at this point, not only are the gloves still on, for all intents and purposes, the candidates aren’t even throwing punches.