October 30, 2007 9:44 PM
UPDATED with Clinton's video response
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was in harm's way throughout Tuesday night's televised debate on MSNBC.
With her solid lead in the national polls, and her new front-runner status even in the first caucus state, Iowa, Clinton was sure to take plenty of fire from Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards.
And, guess what. She did.
Both men questioned her vote for a resolution that, they claim, gives President Bush too much leeway to confront Iran over nuclear weapons. Both men made hay of the attacks she gets from Republicans.
Obama conjured memories of past, partisan battles with Republicans. "That's a fight they're very comfortable having," Obama said, saying he's the candidate who wants to bring Republicans and Democrats together to solve problems.
Edwards was more blunt, telling Clinton about Republicans: "They may actually want to run against you..."
For the most part, Clinton shrugged off the jabs, even pointing to the attacks from Republicans as a badge of honor.
But in the closing segments of the debate -- when the candidates weren't being asked about UFOs or legalizing marijuana -- Clinton gave an answer to a question about driver's licenses for illegal immigrants that is sure to become fodder for rival Democrats, not to mention Republicans, for months to come.
She stuck by her recent statements that a New York plan to offer licenses to "undocumented" immigrants "makes a lot of sense," although she later backtracked and made it clear she was not endorsing the plan.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza offers a good summary HERE:
"Tim Russert asked Clinton why she had told a New Hampshire newspaper that the plan 'makes a lot of sense.'"
"Clinton replied that Spitzer is 'trying to fill the vacuum left by the failure this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.' After the interlude of a Dodd answer on the same subject Clinton added, 'I just want to add, I did not say it should be done, but I certainly understand why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it.'"
Clinton's rivals jumped on the comment, portraying it as a confusing waffle -- one that seemingly illustrated Edwards' theme challenging Clinton's "doubletalk."
On MSNBC, the post-debate analysis centered on the drivers license issue and the alleged "doubletalk." Since immigration is such a hot-button issue on the Republican side of the aisle, it's likely to give the GOP presidential contenders another talking point to attack Clinton -- and it's sure to resurface in the general election, and quite loudly.
But the real question in the next 65 days before the Iowa caucuses is whether this, Clinton's first perceived stumble in a nationally-televised debate, is going to give any of her leading rivals a significant boost. Or will it get lost in the muddle of candidates not named Clinton?
Check out our lively live-chat, just as it unfolded in real time in the COMMENTS section HERE. (Read from the bottom-up.)
The late drivers license question clearly changed the night's festivities. But has it also changed the traffic on the back roads to the White House?
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UPDATED at the "Full entry" with Clinton's video response: "The Politics of Pile-On."