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Democratic candidates in fifth presidential debate agree on impeachment, little else

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Heidi Gutman  Walt Disney Television

Pete Buttigieg was expected to be the main target for presidential candidates seeking to knock off the South Bend, Ind., mayor after he experienced a surge in early primary states, but conflict didn't seem to shake him during the fifth Democratic debate. Elizabeth Warren of MA, who soared to one of President Trump's chief challengers with a proposal called "Medicare for All".

"Coming into the debate it was all about Buttigieg, it was his time to face a lot of scrutiny and it was really surprising that it didn't happen until the last five minutes", Kall said.

Emerson College polled 1,092 registered voters from November 17-20 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Harris is still trying to crack the top tier in Iowa and beyond, and she used the Atlanta debate Wednesday to make a direct appeal to black women while pitching herself as the ideal nominee to rebuild the multiracial coalition that twice sent Barack Obama to the Oval Office. Mayor Pete is in mid-single digits in those more diverse states, the third and fourth contests on the Democratic calendar.

Not all Democratic leaders support Warren's plan.

"What I do think is important is for each of us to reveal who we are and what motivates us and it's important for voters to understand what makes me tick, what moves me and my sources of motivation and ensuring that I stand up for others", Buttigieg told reporters.

He went on to tell them of his 1960s activism, describing himself and his fellow white students as "not quite so brave" as black citizens in the more unsafe Jim Crow South.

As the debate underscored, the top candidates also represent a wide spectrum of other choices facing the party: Between those who would make big structural changes and advocates of a more incremental approach; between an advocate of a strong US role in the world and those with more limited ambitions; between a millennial who brings a new style of leadership and a septuagenarian touting his long government career. Among black voters, he drew support from 44%; trailing far behind him was Sanders with 10%, Warren with 8%, Harris with 6% and Booker with 2%.

Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic consultant in SC, said Buttigieg should expect more scrutiny now that he's a consensus top-tier candidate. But the contours of her new approach - and the preparation that went into it - was apparent well before Warren took the stage at Clark-Atlanta University.

"The wealthy and the well-connected want us to believe that more for your neighbors has always meant less for you", she said.

"Washington experience is not the only experience that matters", Buttigieg said. But as voters, especially African Americans, process the campaign, there is more at stake for them than making history.

"I want to say something". Now, the experience of being black in America is by no means even comparable to the experience of being gay. Being on one side or the other has become such an expectation that many people don't even stop to consider the fact that I might be viewing each issue individually and drawing my own conclusions. "I've been one since I was 18".

However, in the the first southern primary state of South Carolina, Warren only has 8 percent support among African-Americans, 36 points behind Biden, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. But I do know what it is to question your belonging in your country and I think now is a moment where the patterns of exclusion that have existed in this country around race, country of origin, abilities, so many different ways, call us to find in our own identity, in our own very different life experiences, the motivation to help others.

Warren is tied with Sanders in second, behind Joe Biden, among Democratic contenders, according to RealClearPolitics average polling numbers.

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