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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

With the debate stage narrowed to less than ten candidates for the first time, tensions flared as the top Democrats went toe-to-toe 46 days from the Iowa caucuses.

The big picture: Following the House's historic vote Wednesday night, the debate predictably opened with a question about impeaching President Trump — a moment that was quickly overshadowed as the candidates moved on to campaign finance, electability and experience, health care and more.

Highlights

1. Impeachment: With Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who voted "present" on impeachment last night, failing to qualify for the sixth debate, the candidates were united in their condemnation of Trump's conduct. Where they differed was their characterization of the problem.

  • Joe Biden cast the Ukraine scandal as an embodiment of Trump's personal flaws and the threat he poses to the country, while Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren highlighted the systemic corruption that allowed Trump to assume the presidency in the first place.
  • Andrew Yang called for looking past impeachment and focusing on addressing the "real problems" that propelled Trump's election: economic upheaval driven by job loss and automation.

2. Pile on Pete: Buttigieg faced a series of attacks as tensions that had been brewing on the campaign trail broke out on the debate stage — most notably during a heated exchange with Warren over campaign fundraising.

  • Warren attacked the South Bend mayor for hosting a high-dollar fundraiser in a Napa Valley wine cave: "Think about who comes to that," Warren argued, decrying the influence of money in politics and the corruption of decisions made in "smoke-filled rooms."
  • Buttigieg countered that it would be self-destructive to turn down donations from anyone while engaged in "the fight of our lives" against Trump, before pointing out that Warren and other successful Democrats used the same tactics before Warren swore off high-dollar fundraisers this year: "This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot pass yourself," he argued.

3. Moderates v. moderates: Sen. Amy Klobuchar had her strongest debate performance yet, but instead of hitting progressives Sanders and Warren, she took aim at the only other Midwestern moderate on stage. Set to embark on a 27-county bus tour of Iowa, Klobuchar ripped into Buttigieg for his lack of experience and failure to win elections outside of South Bend as she looked to chip into the mayor's advantage in the early state.

4. Yang shines: Andrew Yang called it both "an honor and a disappointment" that he was the only candidate of color on stage, before pivoting to his stump speech by rattling off statistics that explain the economic disadvantages that minorities face: "Fewer than 5% of Americans donate to political campaigns. You know what you need to donate to political campaigns? Disposable income."

  • Yang deftly parried questions into answers that reflect his core campaign themes and "Freedom Dividend" proposal, as he got more camera time in front of voters on a winnowed stage.

The bottom line: The relentless attacks on Buttigieg could shake up the race. But it's worth remembering that anything that doesn't alter the fundamentals of the campaign benefits the frontrunner. That remains Joe Biden, who slipped through tonight unscathed and with a stronger command of his answers than in prior debates.

Go deeper: An issue-by-issue recap of the Democratic debate

Go deeper

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

Mitch McConnell's remarks on Black voters raise ire

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Capitol Hill news conference earlier this year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been widely criticized for comments he made this week about Black American voters.

Driving the news: When asked by a reporter Wednesday about concerns among voters of color, McConnell said "the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."