Rasmussen: Hillary gained five points after Tuesday night's debate? Update: New Edwards ad nukes Hillary for flip-flopping

Caveats apply: small sample, big margin of error, media dust hasn’t settled yet. But.

Tuesday night’s debate was not Hillary Clinton’s finest moment of the campaign season, but there has been little or no immediate damage to her standing in the national polls. In fact, if anything, support for Clinton has ticked up a bit since she stumbled on an answer to questions about drivers licenses for illegal aliens.

Data from the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows that on the two nights following the debate (Wednesday and Thursday) Clinton held a 45% to 18% lead over Barack Obama. For Clinton, that’s an improvement from Monday and Tuesday nights when her lead over Obama had been 40% to 24%

Separate survey data shows that political pundits and junkies are likely to overestimate the immediate impact of Clinton’s debate performance. Much of the nation was simply not paying attention. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of 800 Likely Voters nationwide found that just 56% knew that the Democrats were the party with a Presidential debate this week. Thirteen percent (13%) thought it was the GOP’s turn while 31% are not sure.

Just 38% could pick immigration from a list of four issues as the topic that caused Clinton to stumble near the end of the debate. Eleven percent (11%) picked the War in Iraq, 5% health care, 4% the economy, 6% “some other topic”, and 36% admitted they didn’t know.

The only thing I can think of to explain the bump is if people tuned in earlier in the evening and caught a few minutes. Obama and Edwards couldn’t lay a glove on her; even the boss was compelled to say, “She is looking solid and grown-up. The men are nervous, small, and nutty.” But how many people could we be talking about there? Surely not five percent. Either it’s simple statistical error or something else besides the debate is driving this. Er, but what? Any theories?

Meanwhile, the Republican “electability” beauty contest appears to be over. Note in particular the amazing results on page 2. Exit question: Everyone beats Fred?

Update: Silky’s latest spot is getting raves. The segment at the end with the illegal licenses is all fair game but the first two, on Iraq and social security, are sophistry. Her Iraq position is standard Baker-Hamilton: withdraw most combat troops but leave a small residual force behind for targeted missions against Al Qaeda and to protect military trainers. Her position on social security appears to be that she wants certain other economic measures taken before rolling out any measures to fix the program. Not really that “nuanced,” Silky.

That said, this is indeed the umpteen-thousandth case of Hillary being purposely vague so that she can’t be held to any position — a habit most recently identified by Krauthammer as the reason why Republicans ultimately could live with her as president. She has no principles. She’s a pragmatist of the highest order.