Democratic leaders are more prone to domestic sanction following defeats, and these audience costs allow democracies to signal their intentions during public disputes. Empirical tests strongly support this relationship; however, recent criticisms have questioned whether the causal mechanisms of audience costs are responsible for these findings. We provide a unified rationale for why both arguments are correct: democracies rarely contend over territorial issues, a consistently salient and contentious issue. Without these issues, leaders are unable to generate audience costs but are able to choose easy conflicts. Our reexaminations of threat-based and reciprocation-based studies support this argument. We also present tests of within-dispute behavior using MID incident data, which confirms that the salience of territory matters more than regime type when predicting militarized behavior. Any regime differences suggest a disadvantage for democratic challengers over territorial issues, and any peace between democracies results from the dearth of salient issues involving these regimes.