The reviews are in from the Democratic debate in Las Vegas Thursday night, and everyone performed splendidly — at least, according to the candidates' campaigns.
Even Barack Obama, whose most criticized trip-up came when he gave a muddied answer to the same question that dogged frontrunner Hillary Clinton at a debate in Philadelphia two weeks ago, issued a release highlighting his own clarity of response.
"Sen. Obama tonight gave clear, honest answers to tough questions on the major issues facing America, and he boldly challenged the cynicism that says we can't solve our nation's problems," campaign manager David Plouffe said in a statement.
During the debate, Obama early on chastised Clinton for being unable to give "straight answers to tough questions" — a reference aimed at Clinton's recent waffling on the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. After giving a confusing position on the matter in Philadelphia, Clinton adjusted her stances several times before stating Wednesday that she is firmly against such programs.
But when it came time to answer the yes-or-no question posed by moderator Wolf Blitzer on the drivers' licenses, Obama responded by first saying:
"I am not proposing that that's what we do. What I'm saying is that we can't —" He paused, adding: "No, no, no, no. Look, I have already said, I support the notion that we have to deal with public safety and that driver's licenses at the same level can make that happen. But what I also know ... is that if we keep on getting distracted by this problem, then we are not solving it."
Blitzer drew an audience chuckle in his response to Obama: "This is the kind of question that is sort of available for a yes or no answer. Either you support it or you oppose it."
He then polled the individuals on the stage, and when he arrived again at Obama, the Illinois senator responded, "Yes," adding: "I am going to be fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, and we shouldn't pose the question that, somehow, we can't achieve that. I believe that the American people desperately want it; that's what I'm going to be fighting for as president."
In her response, Clinton only gave a terse "No" when asked if she supports the driver's license plan.
Following the debate, a statement on Clinton's Web site claimed it was her "best performance."
Similar self-assessment on candidate John Edwards' page called his "amazing."
Meanwhile, at least one Republican reacted by shaking his head.
"Tonight's debate showcased a Democratic Party more interested in playing politics than advancing the solutions necessary to meet the challenges facing our nation. ... The American people want straight answers from real leaders that aren't the result of two weeks of indecision and political strategizing," Kevin Madden, spokesman for GOP candidate Mitt Romney, said in a statement — also playing off the apparent Clinton flip-flop — adding that giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants is wrong.