Why did Hillary Clinton win tonight's Democratic debate? The reason is simple. She's the only candidate on stage who can win both the Democratic primary and the general election. And with today's Democratic party, that is no small feat.
The Democratic march to the left is stunning. Having Bernie Sanders play Clinton's chief foil may excite the left, but, as much as I hate to say it, David Brock is right: The man is unelectable. It's not just that he's proposing $18 trillion in new spending and trillions in new taxes. It's his personal demeanor, which will turn off most Democrats long before it turns off swing voters in the general election. Martin O'Malley may not be as radical as Sanders, but he is certainly to Clinton's left, and his record in Baltimore and Maryland, where he put many left wing ideas into practice, will be easily attacked by the Republicans.
Jim Webb is a great American and has many provocative thoughts on foreign policy and domestic policy. But there's no way he can win the nomination of a Democratic Party that is debating socialism over capitalism, whether black lives matter or all lives matter, whether climate change is the most pressing strategic threat facing the country, and whether to open Obamacare and in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. Lincoln Chafee? What an embarrassment. I don't know why he's on the stage, and the truth is, neither does he.
That leaves Clinton, whose performance was typical. She was aggressive, specific, assured. Her strengths are finding the left-of-center sweet spot and never backing down. Her weaknesses—well, there are plenty. Her slippery political identity has left the general public thinking that she's dishonest and untrustworthy, and not even Bernie Sanders can save her from questions over the security of her personal email server. There's also her record, on foreign policy in particular, which even the Democrats criticize.
A skillful opponent could defeat Clinton. But a skillful opponent is exactly what was lacking on the debate stage in Las Vegas. There's only one other Democrat who could conceivably win both the nomination of his party and the general election. And time for Joe Biden to enter the race is running out.