Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The fifth Democratic debate on Wednesday ended with more shared laughs than attack lines, striking a stark contrast to the partisan impeachment hearings that have dominated news coverage over the past two weeks.

The big picture: The Pete Buttigieg pile-on landed more softly than many had projected. Instead, the top four candidates in early state polling — Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — pulled many of their punches, giving some of the lower-tier candidates a chance to make waves in a debate that will otherwise do little to shake up the race.

Highlights

1. When it came to attacks on Buttigieg, who is now viewed as a frontrunner in Iowa after his breakout poll in the early voting state, Sen. Kamala Harris dealt perhaps the biggest blow of the night without directly attacking him. Asked about a controversy over Buttigieg's campaign using a stock photo of a Kenyan woman to promote his racial equality plan, Harris used the moment to speak to a broader issue:

  • "For too long, candidates have taken for granted constituencies that have been the backbone of the Democratic Party," Harris said. "They show up when it's close to election time and show up at a black church. ... but just haven't been there before."
  • Buttigieg responded that he agrees with Harris: "I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in American who don't yet know me." He then pivoted to LGBT rights: "While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country."

2. Buttigieg and Harris both sparred with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has become a favorite among conservatives for her anti-interventionist and attacks on the Democratic establishment.

  • Gabbard accused Buttigieg of proposing to send troops to Mexico to fight drug cartels. An incredulous Buttigieg asserted that she was taking his comments out of context, and he attacked her for meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2017.
  • Harris, who slid in the polls after Gabbard attacked her in the second debate, finally hit back: "I think that it's unfortunate that we have someone on this stage ... who during the Obama administration spent four years full time on Fox News criticizing President Obama."

3. In the shadow of Wednesday's explosive impeachment hearings, there was a consensus among candidates that President Trump should be impeached for his alleged abuse of power. Joe Biden, who is at the center of the impeachment allegations, said that he would not wield the Justice Department as a political tool to investigate Trump after he leaves office.

  • Notably, five of the candidates on stage — Sens. Warren, Klobuchar, Booker, Sanders and Harris — will be required to sit as jurors if articles of impeachment are sent to the Senate. That could provide a boost to candidates like Buttigieg and Biden, who would be free to campaign in Iowa in the key weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

4. Wednesday was only the third primary debate in history moderated by an all-women panel. As the New York Times' Michael Grynbaum points out, it also became the first Democratic debate of the cycle in which the first two questions went to two female candidates.

  • Overall, the debate saw a greater focus on women's issues, with questions about abortion rights, paid family leave and the cost of childcare.
  • Klobuchar, who had a strong night positioning herself as a practical, but compassionate alternative to Warren and Sanders, highlighted the higher standard that women running for president are held to, adding: "If you think a woman can't beat Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi does it every single day."

5. Joe Biden, who is still atop most national polls, had numerous embarrassing gaffes, but still showed command on important issues like foreign policy. Axios' Margaret Talev notes that the wide swing of Biden highs and lows really underscored why he remains a frontrunner, but with significant vulnerabilities.

What to watch: Sen. Cory Booker is the highest-profile candidate who has not yet qualified for the next debate, and made a plea for donations in his closing statement to get him to the December stage.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

24 mins ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.