Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off in the seventh Democratic presidential debate Sunday night in Flint, Mich. The city's well-publicized water problems framed a largely (although not entirely) polite conversation -- a marked contrast to the battle royales on the Republican side of late. I watched, tweeted and jotted down some notes on the best and the worst. They're below. And make sure to check out The Fix's annotated transcript of the debate, too!
* Hillary Clinton: The former secretary of state came ready to fight on Sunday night. She kept her hit on Sanders's opposition to the automobile-industry bailout well hidden in the run-up to the debate to get maximum impact when she dropped it on his head. Ditto her attack on him being the lone Democratic-voting senator to vote against the Export-Import Bank. She is still not great when it comes to answering questions she doesn't want to answer. Her I'll-release-my-Wall-Street-speeches-when-everyone-else-does answer to a question about her high-paid speaking gigs was not very good. And she remains overly cautious as a candidate; when pressed on whether people at the Environmental Protection Agency should lose their jobs because of what happened in Flint, Clinton was unwilling to say they should -- a swing and a miss at a hanging curveball. Still, overall, this was a very solid showing by Clinton. On guns, on failing schools and on Flint, she was confident and effective.
* President Obama: It seemed as though no matter what Clinton was asked about in the debate, her answer wound back to a defense of the current occupant of the White House. Clinton even used President Obama as a shield against Sanders as he bashed her on accepting money from Wall Street. Why? Because Clinton knows that among Democratic base voters -- particularly African Americans -- Obama remains hugely popular and, therefore, aligning yourself with him is a stone-cold winner.
* The Export-Import Bank: A 10-minute discussion about an obscure bank almost no one has heard of? I take that as a win for Ex-Im. Also, the Export-Import Bank is now the second most famous bank in the world -- right behind the Iron Bank of Braavos.
* CNN: I will admit I very skeptical when the Cable News Network said this debate would start at 8 p.m. Eastern time. But, good on you, CNN! At 7:56 p.m., the candidates were being introduced. And there wasn't even that weird commercial break two seconds into the debate. I also liked the format CNN chose for this forum: lots and lots of good audience questions with (generally) effective follow-ups by the moderators. (Don Lemon's repetition of the "Avenue Q" question was, um, less good. Ditto the "Whom do you pray for" question.)
* Bernie Sanders: The senator from Vermont had effectively walked a fine line in the previous six debates when it came to attacking Clinton without coming across as bullying or condescending. He tripped and fell while trying to execute that delicate dance on Sunday night. Sanders's "excuse me, I'm talking" rebuttal to Clinton hinted at the fact that he was losing his temper with her. His "Can I finish, please?" retort ensured that his tone and his approach to someone trying to become the first female presidential nominee in either party would be THE story of the night.
Put aside the fact that Sanders misstepped on tone, he also did nothing to change the underlying dynamics of the race. If you think Wall Street is the problem for much of what ails the country, you were for Sanders before this debate and certainly for him after it, too. But, as we know from the first 40 percent or so of states that have voted, there aren't enough of those people to make him the nominee. Sanders didn't knock Clinton off her game in any meaningful way, making the debate a loss for him. (Sidebar: His answer about white people not knowing what it is like to live in a ghetto or be poor would have been a massive gaffe if he was not as far behind in the delegate chase as he is.)
* Foreign policy: A total of zero minutes of the debate were dedicated to questions beyond the nation's borders. I get that with the Flint setting this was going to be a largely domestic policy-focused affair. But, NO foreign policy questions? A little odd.
* The 1990s: Look, it was an awkward time for all of us.
(Yes, that is my high school graduation picture.) Much of the debate's middle section featured Sanders trying to hit Clinton for various things -- the crime bill, welfare reform, NAFTA -- that happened in the 1990s. Clinton effectively parried them, pointing out that the 2016 election will be about the future, not the past. That's good news for the 18-year-old version of me.
* Lovers of earlier 20th-century period pieces about a wealthy aristocracy coming to grips with the new social rules of a post-war world: Yes, that's me. And Mrs. Fix, who had to DVR the series finale of "Downton Abbey" because I had to work. She was, um, not happy about it.