(CNN) – Two top progressives in the center. Two candidates vying to claim the mantle of the younger voice in the race. And the back-of-the-pack candidates — maybe making their last stand.
They are friends, they are Senate colleagues — and they have become a lot closer in the polls.
And right off the bat, the big showdown on the debate stage wasn’t between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
It was Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren defending their progressive positions on issues like border security and health care — against more moderate candidates on the stage.
“Healthcare is a human right, not a privilege. I believe that, I will fight for that,” Sen. Sanders said.
“We don’t have to go around to be the party of subtraction and telling half the country who has private health insurance that their health insurance is illegal,” said John Delaney.
Sen. Warren adding, “Let’s be clear about this. We are the democrats. We are not about trying to take away health care from anyone.”
Delaney continued, “I’m the only one on this stage who has experience in the healthcare business and with all due respect, I don’t think my colleagues understand the business.”
“It’s not a business,” Sen. Sanders countered.
With two top-tier progressives taking center stage, moderate candidates further back in the polls tried to make a case for democrats taking a different direction.
“I just have a better way to do this,” Sen. Klobuchar said.
With a much steeper bar for the next round of debate entry, some took one more chance to get voters’ attention on the national stage.
Candidates also touched on gun control, prices for prescription drugs, and the best ways for democrats to defeat president trump come next year.
“Focus on the economy. That’s how I win. That’s how we take back the office,” said Gov. Bullock.