If language tells the story of the debate, then it's clear the Clinton campaign doesn't believe it won, since it is only trying to spin that "she survived." You don't say that if you think you actually won. Meanwhile, the Edwards and Dodd camps seemed the most fired up post-debate while the Obama folks feel good (though not great, since they know they did meet their own overhyped early expectations).
The Des Moines Register's Yepsen scored the debate for Edwards. "Edwards came ready for the scrap and he helped his candidacy. His effort has sagged in recent polls and his tough, pointed challenges of Clinton will give his campaign a needed psychological boost at a crucial juncture. By contrast, Barack Obama seemed disjointed, unable to give good sound bites and so didn't help himself."
Early this morning, the Obama campaign issued an email -- and YouTube video -- to reporters with pollster Frank Luntz (R) proclaiming Obama as the winner of his focus group last night. Luntz later told First Read that "Obama's attacks are considered legitimate. Not Edwards. There is a huge difference in style. Huge. Hillary has disappointed. Her only really positive lines have been in attacking bush overtly. They did not like her illegal immigration answer." (One thing to keep in mind about focus groups, they don't like negative ads either, but that doesn't mean negative ads don't work so Edwards tougher stances may work, the question is will the attacks work for Edwards or for Obama?)
The Politico's Roger Simon says Clinton had a bad night. "… Clinton gave the worst performance of her entire campaign. It was not just that her answer about whether illegal immigrants should be issued drivers' licenses was at best incomprehensible and at worst misleading. It was that for two hours she dodged and weaved, parsed and stonewalled."
More: "And when it was over, both the Barack Obama and John Edwards campaigns signaled that in the weeks ahead they intend to hammer home a simple message: Hillary Clinton does not say what she means or mean what she says. And she gave them plenty of ammunition Tuesday night."
That said, The Los Angeles Times' lead seemed to score the debate for Clinton: "Trailing in national polls and with supporters growing restless, Barack Obama challenged Hillary Rodham Clinton's electability and candor in a spirited Tuesday night debate. But he failed to rattle the front-runner or do much, it seemed, to shake up the Democratic race."
Clinton received feint praise from sometimes-nemesis Maureen Dowd: "Few are concerned that Hillary is strong enough for the job. She is cold-eyed about wanting power and raising money and turning everything about her life into a commodity. Yet, the characteristics that are somewhat troubling are the same ones that convincingly show she will do what it takes to beat Obama and Rudy. She will not be soft or vulnerable. She will not melt in a crisis. And, unlike Obama, she doesn't need to talk herself into manning up. Obama whiffed in the debate last night when Brian Williams and Tim Russert teed up the first question for him to take on Hillary - something the debate dominatrix never would have done."
The Politico's Smith notes that Clinton "wears GOP hate as badge of honor."
Real Clear's Wilson: Edwards "stole much of the show."
The New York Post's Charles Hurt writes, "The heavyweight champion of the Democratic Party escaped lightly bruised but unbloodied in last night's debate in the City of Brotherly Love." He adds that Edwards made the "strongest case" against her but ultimately, "She tied herself up in knots - in a way her opponents couldn't - with her non-answer about whether she favors giving driver's license to illegal aliens."