From my delayed viewing of the first Democratic candidates debate on MSNBC...
Hillary Clinton: Worst response was the first part of the debate, on Iraq. Repeated the insufferable line about how we gave Iraqis the "opportunity for freedom." Her health care response started interestingly, as she emphasized the middle class that already has insurance but is struggling to afford premiums, then she went on to say something along the lines of getting the most out of our current system before we pay any more for something else. What does she mean by that? Her website has no policy, so I don't know! She did take the opportunity to redirect a possible criticism of Obama (opportunity handed by the moderator) into Bush criticism.
Barack Obama: Barack was, as usual, pretty generic. His health-care response was straight out of The Audacity of Hope. He took a few opportunities to emphasize the need for a national movement. Three candidates had a question on the abortion decision, and all three took different angles; Obama emphasized women's choices in concert with families, doctors and clergy (he didn't miss the chance to throw that in). My favorite answer of his was actually to the question "what is your biggest mistake of the last four years?". He was the only one to answer nongenerically, saying that he should not have left the Senate during the Schiavo case but should have stayed to fight for families' privacy.
John Edwards: I was unimpressed with Edwards on Iraq (he seemed smug about his position) or on his wealth. His SCOTUS response was to emphasize the need for a Democrat to appoint the next justices--predictably for a trial lawyer. He did win points for having the most specific health-care response.
Bill Richardson: I wasn't actually aware of some of Richardson's positions before the debate. He was good on Iraq--the most specific and committed of any of them. Said if he were president he would withdraw everyone before 2007 is out. On health care, said that there's a lot of waste and that it should be cut, and no raising taxes, but no specifics. Top three priorities: out of Iraq, energy independence, climate change.
Joe Biden: Biden wins points with me for saying "If we want the best students in the world, we need the best teachers in the world." Otherwise, his response on Iraq seemed to be a mandate to the Iraqis! Good responses on gun control, the NAACP and South Carolina, and on his mistake ("overestimating the confidence and underestimating the arrogance of this administration"). When asked if he'd be able to be president despite some of his notorious errant comments, stated, "Yes."
Chris Dodd: I don't think he said too much to stand out. He put a lot of emphasis on his experience and political background, which isn't necessarily the way to go. Good responses on why welfare recipients should not have drug tests, and on justifying civil unions by "thinking if it was your own kids" (though I disagree with his opposition to gay marriage).
Dennis Kucinich: Alternated between awkward (which he always is), unrealistic (international peacekeepers in Iraq!), and somewhat decently principled (in response to abortion, America needs a "culture of life" that includes a lot more than just abortion). But hey, we should support his campaign because it "comes from the heart."
Mike Gravel: Who is this guy? He tried to grab attention by criticizing Iraq and the other candidates over, and over, and over again, hijacking a question about nuclear energy and turning it into terrorism and why the war was wrong. Rambled about Congressional strategy to pass a law to end the war in Iraq. Tried to engage Barack in an argument (along with Kucinich) while Hillary stood in the middle rather awkwardly. Says all the "top-tier candidates" "scare [him]" and seems to imply they will support an Iran invasion. He might get a little attention, but not sure what he'll get out of that...
Overall: No huge winners or losers; this was really more of a warmup. Richardson is a rational guy with a couple policy stances that seem a little off with the base. Obama, Clinton and Edwards said nothing new. Biden is probably the biggest riser.