Last night, eight Democratic candidates met in the first debate of the already very long road to the 2008 presidential election. And the debate, which included Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, and Joseph Biden, as well as former Senator John Edwards and Mike Gravel, Representative Dennis Kucinich, and New Mexico Bill Richardson, was more an opportunity to criticize President Bush's policies, versus each other. With eight candidates vying to make the most of the time, it was a somewhat underwhelming debate.

Naturally, most attention was on the Clinton and Obama, who have raised record and near-record amounts respectively during the first quarter. Newsday's Glenn Thrush thought Clinton's performance was "cool, confident" while Obama "seemed to sweat a bit." The Daily News' Michael Goodwin thought Obama won round one, though "barely." The NY Times noted that Obama seemed "reserved and cautious" was Clinton was "professorial and emphatic." NY Post readers found Clinton "presidential," Obama "timid" and Edwards impressive. The Huffington Post's Jeffrey Feldman thinks Edwards did best. The Politico finds that according to pundits, Clinton seemed to be the winner. The Sun found Clinton's talk about using force if the U.S. is attacked by terrorists hawkish and the Washington Post said that the debate showed the Democratic party has a lot of political heft.


And in the longshot sidenote, the writers at least got to mention Gravel and Kucinich as challenging the other candidates on their moderate stances on issues. The Times wrote that former Senator (and NYC cabdriver) Mike Gravel was a hit with crowd, "He served as a kind of cranky uncle in the solemn field of well-barbered, sound-bite practitioner." Cranky uncles do make debates more fun. And we imagine most everyone else was amazed yet again by Kucinich's really tall and 31-years-younger wife.

What did you think of the debate? If the only clip you've seen is Biden's one word response to the question, "Can you reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage?" (Biden said "Yes"), you can watch the debate on MSNBC and here's a transcript from the NY Times.

Photographs by Scott Applewhite/AP