A critical question in this campaign -- how to run against a female presidential candidate, or as one -- has burst into the foreground in the aftermath of a Democratic debate last week at which Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was repeatedly challenged by her rivals and the event's questioners.
Some of Mrs. Clinton's supporters are accusing rival candidates and the questioners of "piling on," to use the words of the Clinton campaign, at the debate, which rattled the Clinton camp. They noted that John Edwards had been especially critical of Mrs. Clinton.
"John Edwards, specifically, as well as the press, would never attack Barack Obama for two hours they way they attacked her," said Geraldine A. Ferraro, the 1984 vice presidential candidate who supports Mrs. Clinton. "It's O.K. in this country to be sexist," Ms. Ferraro said.