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Last night's debate

All three front-runners - Clinton, Obama, and Edwards -- sent out releases declaring victory. The Clinton campaign's came out first and referred to pundits' comments. The Edwards folks came out second, using blogs to back up the claim. And Obama's camp sent out theirs this morning pointing to a robo-dial poll.

The New York Times leads its coverage this way: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was professorial and emphatic as she spoke Thursday night about health care, Iraq and whether Wal-Mart was good for America (a 'mixed blessing,' she decided). Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, by reputation a dynamic performer, was reserved and cautious as he talked about a donor with a shady past, how he would respond to a terrorist attack on American shores and his biggest mistake (not doing more to stop Congress from intervening in the Terri Schiavo case, he said)."

The impression by the Washington Post's Broder is "that the Democrats have a field of contenders that, by any historical measure, matches in quality any the party has offered in decades," adding that the debate "was fast-paced and civil, with few sharp jabs among the serious contenders." 

The Los Angeles Times: "The exchanges were mostly cordial, with Biden at one point cautioning that Republicans would be making a 'big mistake' if they underestimated Clinton's ability to win the general election. But for Clinton and Obama, who have faced criticism from the party's liberal base for not supporting an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq, the event showcased potential problems."

The paper also says there was at least at least "one memorable exchange, in which Gravel knocked Obama for saying he would not rule out any options in responding to Iran's nuclear program. 'Who the hell are we going to nuke? Tell me, Barack,' Gravel said. 'I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike. I promise,' Obama said, his words muffled by audience laughter."

The Boston Globe adds that Obama and Clinton "appeared careful to avoid attacking each other personally. Each referred to the other in a companionable manner, with Obama remarking that 'as Hillary mentioned earlier . . . people are hungry for change,' and the New York lawmaker referring collegially to 'Barack' in one of her responses."

USA Today: "The candidates spent more time attacking Bush during the 90-minute debate, which also featured questions on health care, gun control and abortion."