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Ten Democratic Presidential candidates took to the stage in Atlanta, Georgia for the fifth debate of the cycle and two candidates who aren't at the front of the pack stood out the most to me. Senators Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar both had strong performances, likely granting them both a lifeline for the next debate in December.
Senator Klobuchar had a number of big moments in the debate, especially for shining a light on the double standard female candidates must endure, singling out Mayor Pete Buttigieg for his lack of qualifications compared to some of the women on the same stage. She also won the "best one-liner of the night award" when she said "if you think a woman can't beat Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi does it every day."
Senator Booker also had a big night. After a relatively quiet start, Booker broke through when he directly challenged Vice President Biden over the issue of marijuana legalization and how the War on Drugs has devastated the black community. Booker stressed how disastrous marijuana prohibition has been on black and brown people in this country, inferring that Biden's reluctance to legalize the substance is perpetuating the racist policies of past (and present). His criticism of Biden led the former VP into a fumbling response in which he said “the only African American woman who’s been elected to the Senate” supports him, causing Senator Kamala Harris to quip “No, the other one is here.” (Biden was speaking of former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun.)
Overall, the fifth debate likely won't mix up the "top-tier" standings because none of the major candidates had a catastrophic flub. We may start to think about adding Pete Buttegieg to the top-tier, but I still personally have a hard time doing so just yet because I can't help but think he's just another "flavor of the month" in the same way Beto O'Rourke was. We'll see if he has true staying power if he performs well in primaries that don't have, to put it bluntly, monolithic populations.