Hillary Clinton and the four dwarves

Remember when Carly Fiorina crushed the competition in the Republicans' first undercard debate? That's what Hillary Clinton's performance was like at the first Democratic debate Tuesday night.

No, Clinton has never been as consistently smooth a communicator as Fiorina has proven to be this year, much less her husband Bill. But like Fiorina debating Jim Gilmore and company, this came across as a polished professional among amateurs, even though everyone on both stages was actually accomplished.

The difference for Clinton is that unless Joe Biden gets into the race, this is the only competition she's likely to face for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Bernie Sanders undoubtedly appealed to more progressive Democratic voters with his passionate criticism of money in politics, making up s Larry Lessig's exclusion from the debate, and his talk about income inequality. He tried to address the minority voters who have so far eluded him, embracing Black Lives Matters and strengthening his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform (though he didn't back down from his criticism of frequently unfair guest-workers programs). Even his rumpled appearance and oratorical skills more suited to chasing kids from his lawn than delivering an inaugural address may be endearing to some voters.

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