Adam Reilly, reporting from Manchester, N.H., and Peter Kadzis, watching on TV in Boston, live-debated Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate. Their exchange follows.

PETER KADZIS: Ever since Larry David impersonated Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live I’ve felt that Sanders’ improbable momentum had stalled. Curiously, the Sanders/Clinton/DNC stink over improper access to voter databases seems to have reignited the “Feel The Bern” movement. You’re up there in New Hampshire, is there any evidence of that? What’s the feel? Or do you think I’m crazy?

ADAM REILLY: Agreed that Sanders has become an afterthought, but I’m not sure I lay the blame at Larry David’s feet. I’d say that after Clinton made it through her Benghazi testimony unscathed, the political media basically decided, “OK, she’s got this”—never mind Sanders’s lead in N.H. or the big crowds he continues to draw there and elsewhere. (And, of course, we’ve been expending so much energy chronicling every wacky thing Donald Trump says and does.)

It’s hard to make any pronouncements about whether the Bern is back based on what I’m seeing tonight, since these events are so synthetic and stage-managed. What I can tell you is that 1.) the young Sanders supporters hooting and hollering for the cameras at the St. Anselm entrance were just as into their performance as the young Clinton supporters, and 2.) the atmosphere in the media filing center is a bit funereal. But the night is young!

KADZIS: What David did so effectively was to expose Sander’s quirkiness and thus his marginality. And Clinton’s red-meat response to the GOP’s feeble Benghazi attack certainly dispersed the clouds of emailgate. It’s a shame the mainstream media with whom you are embedded are funereal. I don’t suppose Sanders’s apology woke them up. By the way, I find Martin O’Malley trying way too hard, suggesting his essential irrelevance.

REILLY: Guess again, hombre. When Sanders apologized for DataGate, as I’m calling it, there was a big “OOOOOH!” from the press. It certainly seems that issue is done—Sanders gave a great explainer and Clinton did a nice job accepting the apology while also dismissing the issue as inside baseball. As for O’Malley, while I loved his line about Trump earlier—“fascist billionaires with big mouths,” I believe?—I’ll agree that he seems to be flailing madly against the whirlpool of irrelevance that’s inexorably sucking him under.

Now, excuse me while I wait for Clinton’s imminent jab at Sanders’s views on gun control.

KADZIS: Good one and agreed. The gun debate as it unfolds here and elsewhere is politically irrelevant. The influence of the NRA is so powerful as to be criminal. In 2016 the pro-gun people will largely vote Republican, and the anti-gun people will largely join the Democrats. That said, Clinton handles the issue with presidential aplomb. Looking forward to the encryption discussion.

REILLY: You know what took my breath away in the gun exchange? That little rhetorical shiv of Clinton’s, where she praised Sanders’s growth on the issue—thereby highlighting his past inadequacy, of course—and then made a pitch for common-sense regulations that echoed Sanders’s earlier plea but gave her the final word on the subject. That’s the aplomb you’re talking about, I guess.

I think I missed the encryption debate in the time it took me to type that. But tell me this: Is it risky for Sanders to cast anxiety about illegal immigration, ISIS, etc., as a sort of misdirection whipped up by Trump to obscure his economic views? I think so. But I also don’t expect him to be the nominee.

KADZIS: You didn’t miss much with the encryption debate. Let’s have it both ways: maximum personal liberty coupled with maximum sleuthing ability. If someone had mentioned the dark net, the parallel Internet where a lot of the significant dangerous communication takes place, I’d have given that round to them.

As for Sanders pivoting to his core issues at the risk of being perceived as soft, I’m not sure he has any choice but to play to his base. Uncomfortable as it may be to bring up, his conscientious-objector status during the Vietnam era would work against him ever being elected, should he beat the odds and win the nomination.

As for the no-fly zone discussion, it’s bunk.

What do you make of the Middle East/Libya discussion now taking place?

REILLY: I’m loving this conversation, and I’m thrilled that the candidates have forced the moderators to let them have it. One moment I’ll remember: Sanders channeling Rand Paul and noting that a vacuum was created in Libya—via a policy that Clinton helped craft—that has created a world of trouble since Muammar el-Qaddafi’s exit. Another memorable moment: Martin O’Malley (!) offering what he termed “another generation’s perspective” on foreign policy.

Clinton, of course, is extremely nimble when it comes to discussing these issues. I especially liked her drawing attention to the fact that an all-out American invasion is EXACTLY WHAT ISIS WANTS, a crucial point that is never mentioned in the GOP debates. But she’s hardly invulnerable, I think. Did you catch her suggestion that Russia could be convinced to prioritize defeating ISIS rather than propping up Assad, for example? What makes her think that’s even possible?

KADZIS: I agree with everything you said.

My larger view is that invading Iraq was a mistake. Intervening in Libya was a mistake. Clinton supported the former and was the architect of the latter. So despite her admitted nimbleness, she’s problematic.

As for Sanders saying we should destroy ISIS, before removing Assad: well, OK. That’s not a choice we really have. But it’s a debating point. The question is how do you destroy ISIS without ground troops? And then what do you about whatever pops up to fill the ISIS void? The answer to both is very uncomfortable.

REILLY: As I type these words, Peter, Clinton is cackling with delight at O’Malley’s description of her as someone who wants to let crony capitalism run amok. And now—she moves fast!—she’s accusing O’Malley of hypocrisy for glossing over his own Wall Street ties, while also claiming that her connections have been exaggerated.

She’s very, very convincing. Question is, what do Democratic voters want? A candidate like Sanders, who glories in his role as a nemesis of Wall Street and the nation’s banks? Or a candidate who says they want “everyone” to like them, like Clinton did a moment ago? My hunch is that they prize electability above all else, especially as the economy’s slow March toward respectability continues and Donald Trump’s march toward the Republican nomination continues apace. But maybe I’m wrong.

KADZIS: Of course, this is about electability, which translates to raw power.

I’m a bit of a Communist on the macroeconomic issues. Nationalize the big six money-center banks until they can be broken up into somewhere between 12 to 18 institutions.

Raise the maximum tax rate to 90 percent for incomes over, say, $7.5 million a year.

But the odds of this happening are about the same as real gun control being enacted.

And while I like Clinton’s pledge not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 year, to pay for what she and Sanders and O’Malley support would require almost EVERYONE pay more taxes.

I’d like the see one of them have the guts to propose repealing Taft-Hartley, which has crippled trade unions, and at the same time abolish public employee unions, which are punishing state and local governments.

REILLY: Enough substance! Let me ask you, Peter—who won that back and forth on the economy? I thought it was Sanders’s strongest moment tonight. You’d expect that, I suppose, but I really liked the way he went after Clinton on her vow not to raise middle-class taxes, and the nonsensical Rube Goldberg-esque contraption that is the American health-care system. Also loved the relish with which he said, “Now this is getting fun.”

Another question: Is David Muir bugging you as much as he’s bugging me? Yes, the moderators have a tough job. But I feel like Muir keeps trying to insert himself into the action every time a heated exchange between Clinton and Sanders breaks out. Let ’em go, for God’s sake!

KADZIS: Muir drives me up the wall as well.

Bernie was more on target relative to economic realities, but Clinton was more palatable.

As for the discussion of policing the police: bogus all around. Police unions are what keeps the police unaccountable. It’s a tough pill for pro-union Democrats to swallow, but someone has to do it.

REILLY: Oh, that’s interesting—I thought the exchange on race and policing was a clear win for Sanders, and helped sustain the momentum he’s been building in the debate’s second half. If Sanders is going to push Clinton after New Hampshire, he’s going to need to expand his appeal beyond economic populism. And to my eyes and ears, if you’re a Black Lives Matter activist or sympathizer watching tonight, Sanders’ comments (about institutional racism and drug-penalty reform, for example) were far and away the most appealing of the bunch.

Having dissed Muir, by the way, I have to also note that Martha Raddatz has been much, much better. Love that she pressed Clinton on the chaos in Libya just now—and came back hard when Clinton didn’t answer the first time.

All that said, I will make a confession: I’m getting sleepy. How you holding up?

KADZIS: I’m getting bored. I AM bored. You may be getting sleepy, but I admire your ability to focus on the theatricality, which is what matters most, perhaps, to voters. Although most people I know are at Christmas parties tonight.

Sanders did win the policing exchange. But he stopped short of the real solution. Bernie has gotten better as the debate has developed. And I found his tribute to his wife very sincere—maybe even moving.

Martha Raddatz is doing a great job. And Clinton’s answer was inadequate.

REILLY: Well, that’s good to hear. My interest in that stuff makes me feel kind of dirty.

Those First Spouse questions were a waste.

David Muir just said they’re coming back with “much more.” I assume that’s a breathy euphemism for “closing statements.”

If so, you get the last word—I’m off to “Spin Alley” to focus, again, on the shallow theatricality that will determine the next leader of the free world. The pleasure’s been mine, Peter.

KADZIS: Now you’ve got me chuckling.

I’m probably being too high and mighty, too much of a wonk, but I can’t help it.

Sanders evocation of his immigrant family moved me. O’Malley’s plea for climate action was welcome. Clinton, however, won the round with her words, “May the force be with you.”

The leading Republics scare me. The Democrats leave me unsatisfied. But at the end of tonight I have to say that all three displayed their strongest debate performances to date. That means Clinton leads.