Six Democrats clashed on the smallest debate stage yet in Iowa, only 20 days before caucusgoers across the Hawkeye state are set to cast the first votes of the primary, bringing a heightened sense of urgency to the matchup Tuesday night.
Amid visible fissures within the Democratic ranks, particularly among the top-tier, the seventh debate of the cycle showcased a field united on some fronts, but still laboring over the direction of the party — reflecting the zeal of the state of a race.
The debate, seen as a final opportunity for the contenders to offer closing arguments on why they should be the nominee, featured an all-white lineup and a hyper-focus on the party’s frontrunners, who engaged in some of the night’s tensest exchanges – ranging from the role of the commander-in-chief to health care to how to effectively take on President Trump.
Here are five key takeaways from the first Democratic primary debate of the election year:
Sanders, Warren defuse the tension
Despite the national platform and a panel of inquisitive moderators, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both walked away from the debate Tuesday night without revealing any new information — or clarity — on the 2018 meeting they publicly clashed over on Monday.
What they did make clear, however, was a united intent to de-escalate.
“I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want,” Sanders said.
“Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie,” Warren followed.
But in a thoroughly-planned moment, she then pivoted to the broader issue about gender, sexism, and whether America is ready for a woman to be president.
“Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost ten elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women. Amy and me,” she said. “And the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me.”
The fast-facts drew applause from the audience, agreement from Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and perhaps put the rising progressive feud to rest — for now.
Democrats lean into commander-in-chief bonafides
In a direct response to President Donald Trump’s clash with Iran that brought the country to the brink of war, the debate began with a strong foreign policy focus that consumed the entire first quarter of the debate.
Though it was teased as Sanders’ main line of attack on former Vice President Joe Biden, the two candidates’ clashing over their records on the Iraq War largely came without fireworks as each candidate was asked what made them most qualified to be commander-in-chief.
“Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. I didn’t believe them for a moment. I took to the floor, I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently,” Sanders said, highlighting his dove credentials.
Biden, in response, flatly called his vote a mistake, but reminded voters of his other foreign policy credentials while serving as vice president to former President Barack Obama.
“I was asked to bring 156,000 troops home from that war, which I did. I led that effort. It was a mistake to trust that they weren’t going to go to war,” Biden said referring to the Bush administration.
The conversation then moved on to other candidates commander-in-chief pitches, and while Sanders and Biden would again tangle over their view of trade deals, their clashes ended more with a whimper than a bang.
You can read the rest of Kendall Karson, Molly Nagle, and Cheyenne Haslett’s article at ABCnews.com