Clinton, Sanders Clash Over Taxes and Even Henry Kissinger

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Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens at the PBS NewsHour Democratic presidential candidates debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 11, 2016. Clinton conveyed no panic despite a difficult loss in New Hampshire earlier this week. Jim Young/REUTERS

"You're not in the White House yet," Bernie Sanders told Hillary Clinton at Democrats' debate Thursday evening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As if Clinton needed any reminding after Sanders convincingly defeated her in New Hampshire's primary on Tuesday night.

All eyes were on the former secretary of State and how she would respond to that demoralizing loss. If she was in panic mode, it wasn't evident on the debate stage. She came out cool and calm, clearly intending to portray a candidate and a campaign that is in control, despite the unanticipated challenge Sanders has presented.

Clinton and her supporters have pushed back hard when male commentators have accused her of "shouting" in the past, noting a double standard— her male opponents are often louder and more aggressive in their rhetoric, yet rarely get knocked for it. Nonetheless, Clinton seems to have internalized the critique. One of the most noticeable differences in this debate compared to previous Democratic face-offs was her tone.

Clinton also unveiled a new line of attack against Sanders, which she waited until her closing remarks to levy: "I am not a single issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single issue country." And she promised to "break down the barriers that are holding people back."

Much of the rest of the debate followed a similar vein as its predecessors. Clinton laid out detailed policy proposals, emphasizing the nuts and bolts of healthcare, criminal justice reform and financial regulation. Sanders focused on the big picture, lamenting a system that has held segments of American society back and promised sweeping changes to upend it. As the Vermont senator put it in his closing remarks, "This campaign is about creating the process of a political revolution."

Sanders was, if anything, more pugnacious than in the past (or perhaps Clinton's softer pitch simply heightened the contrast). He repeatedly wagged his finger in disagreement while Clinton spoke and raised his voice loudly during their more contentious exchanges, including on their immigration records, Social Security proposals and healthcare. When Clinton suggested she wasn't familiar with a particular proposal to raise the cap on the amount of income subject to Social Security taxes, he snapped, "That's my bill, check it out."

At another point, Sanders went after Clinton for consulting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when she was secretary of state . In their last debate, Clinton had cited Kissinger's praise of her management of the State Department. "People we may disagree with on a number of things may have some insight," Clinton calmly replied, noting Kissinger's historic relationship-building with China. But before she could finish her remark, Sanders interjected impatiently, reiterating he would never take advice from the one-time Nixon aide. It sounded almost petulant.

The two Democrats also sparred over who had a better relationship with President Obama. Clinton has made a habit of tying herself closely to the sitting president, whose administration she served in. She regularly laments that Obama hasn't gotten the credit he deserves for rescuing the economy for near catastrophe and keeping America safe despite the minefields in the Middle East. They're popular talking points among Democrats, especially African-American ones, and proved to be again Thursday night.

But Clinton didn't stop there. She went after Sanders directly, accusing him, essentially, of undermining the president, a charge Sanders called a "low-blow." He acknowledged criticizing the president at times, but said it was "really unfair to suggest I have not been supportive."

"One of us ran against Barack Obama, I was not that candidate," Sanders continued.

The connection to the president is particularly important as the candidates prepare to face voters in South Carolina at the end of the month. The Palmetto State's large African American population is a mainstay of the Democratic party there and remain fiercely devoted to the first black president.

Clinton defended Obama Thursday night against charges that race relations have suffered during his presidency. "We know a lot more than we did," she explained, thanks to social media and cell phone cameras. "We are seeing the dark side of the remaining systemic racism that we have to root out in our society." And she emphasized that racism is endemic in more than just the justice system, which has gotten the lion's share of attention thanks to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. "When we talk about criminal justice reform … we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing and others ways of helping communities do better."

Sanders, meanwhile, asserted that race relations will improve when he is president, because his economic proposals will help lift up communities of color. "Low-income kids, Latin American, White, Latino kids … they are not going to end up in jail, they are going to end up in the productive economy," he said. That might not go over well with the black community, however, seeing as how the whole point of #BlackLivesMatter is to point out the specific injustices African Americans continue to suffer because of their race.

Clinton had to make her own amends with another segment of the Democratic base on Thursday: women. She was quick to disavow a quote by one of her supporters, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that created a minor uproar in feminist circles ahead of the New Hampshire vote. Albright suggested, as she has in the past, that "women who don't support other women have a special place in hell." But taken in the context of the primary race against Sanders, it angered many of his female supporters, particularly the many young women backing him.

"I have no argument about anyone making up her mind about who to support," Clinton said. "I just hope that by the end of this campaign there will be a lot more supporting to me."

Clinton, Sanders Clash Over Taxes and Even Henry Kissinger | U.S.