Early on in Thursday's Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders took a dig at Hillary Clinton when he said that "you're not in the White House yet" during a segment about spending. The line revealed just how contentious the Democratic race has become, especially since the largely-cordial early debates.
The exchange came after PBS's moderators asked the candidates about concerns that their domestic programs would come with a heavy price tag. Clinton said that her proposals would cost around $100 billion figure, and added that "when I'm in the White House, we will have enough political capital" to pass such expensive programs.
"Well, Secretary Clinton," Sanders said, "you're not in the White House yet."
Sanders may have been referring to the long-held belief of certain Clinton critics that she views her election to the presidency as a foregone conclusion. That narrative, regardless of its merits, gained traction during Hillary's 2008 presidential run, and it's one she's been saddled with ever since. She made a conscious effort to not fall into this trap in 2016, and in general, neither she nor her campaign have depicted her as the "inevitable" Democratic nominee.
Nevertheless, Sanders spotted an opening, and he went for it. His timing wasn't great, though. For one, the debate had generally been proceeding in a respectful and non-combative manner up until his comment. Sanders' dig felt out of place and unwarranted, which is probably why the audience responded not with applause or laughter, but with awkward murmuring.
This little jab, however, was an anomaly. It did not set the tone for the rest of the debate. Clinton didn't really acknowledge it, Sanders didn't bring it up again, the conversation moved on to other things and the tone almost immediately returned to nothing more than a light simmer. Perhaps after the last debate, the two candidates realized that tearing into each other doesn't help either of them.