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Conservative commentator: Sanders is 'only one' who could take on Trump in debates

Conservative commentator Johnny Burtka argued Tuesday that Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Trump was right about 'trying to end endless wars' Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico Bernie Sanders says he disagrees with Tlaib's call for 'no more police' MORE (I-Vt.) is best equipped to take on President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE on the debate stage.

“Bernie clearly has the pugnacity,” Burtka, executive director for The American Conservative magazine, told Hill.TV. “He’s the only one that I think could ultimately take on Donald Trump on the debate stage.”

Burtka said that Sanders and fellow 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats reintroduce bill to block US from using nuclear weapons first CEO who gave employees K minimum wage says revenue tripled 6 years later Forgiving K in school loans would free 36 million student borrowers from debt: data MORE (D-Mass.) have effectively “amplified the progressive voice” in the Democratic race by largely avoiding direct attacks on each other.

“It seems like there’s been a multiplier effect in terms of the progressive energy that’s coming from Bernie and Warren,” he said.

“They’ve done a great job on the debate stage playing off each other, eventually they’re going to have to decide who's the best candidate.”

Warren and Sanders have been jockeying for second place in polls recently, behind former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Olympics, climate on the agenda for Biden meeting with Japanese PM Boehner on Afghanistan: 'It's time to pull out the troops' MORE.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Monday showed Warren and Sanders in a statistical tie among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters nationwide. Warren had 17 percent support to Sanders's 16 percent, the poll found.

The survey showed Biden still leading the crowded Democratic field with 30 percent support.

All three top-tier candidates are poised to take the stage Thursday night for the sixth Democratic debate. The debate is set to take place at Loyola Marymount University, despite a labor dispute that had threatened its prospects leading up to the event.

—Tess Bonn