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2nd Democratic Debate Pits Sanders, Warren Against Each Other

Sanders and Warren are the most liberal candidates in the race, though there's one big difference between them

When the curtain goes up on Tuesday's second round of debates in the Democratic presidential primary, two of the front runners, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, will be center stage.

They happen to be the most ideologically similar of the 20-plus Democratic candidates. So will the sparks be flying?

"Anybody hoping to see some kind of battle royale between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is going to be hugely disappointed," Democratic political consultant Alex Goldstein said.

He knows people will be watching to see if Sanders and Warren get into it on the debate stage Tuesday. But he expects the face-off to be much more subtle.

"Ultimately, if you're in a strong position, you want to maintain, right? And doing some kind of Hail Mary where you try a very special move to re-orient yourself, there’s no need for it at this point in the campaign," he said.

Sanders and Warren are the most liberal candidates in the race. They both support Medicare for all, getting rid of private insurance, higher taxes on the wealthiest, free public college and elimination of student debt.

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Updated Nov. 20, 2019
Note: Incorrect information about Michael Bennet’s cancer diagnosis and titles for Joe Sestak and William Weld have been revised on July 29, 2019, 3:17 p.m. ET.
Credit: Jo Bruni, Emma Barnett, Asher Klein, Dan Macht, Kelly Zegers / NBC;  Photos: Getty Images

One big difference? Sanders is a Democratic Socialist while Warren is a capitalist. Some feel that would make Warren a better general election candidate against President Donald Trump.

Is that a point Warren should hightlight? Democratic analyst and Warren supporter Mara Dolan says maybe not.

"She can't in anyway appear to criticize him in a way that alienates supporters who might vote for her otherwise," Dolan said.

The co-founder of Left of Center, which aims to find consensus among Democrats, has been encouraged at Warren’s slow and steady uptick in the polls. She currently surpasses Sanders in most.

"She also has a personality advantage. She's very warm, she's very personable," Dolan said.

Alex Goldstein added, "The real question is, what is the impact of some of these other candidates, because they have to do something that changes the game or else they’re going to continue as status quo, which doesn’t work for them."

So if Sanders or Warren face any attacks, they will likely come from the more moderate, lower-tier candidates who will challenge the two frontrunners on their most left-leaning policies.

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