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Clinton on debate: 'I wasn't my best'

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  • NEW: Sen. Clinton calls for fuel standards to increase to 55 mpg by 2030
  • Clinton says she wouldn't rank last week's debate "in my very top list"
  • Clinton says rivals are not ganging up on her because she is a woman
  • President Clinton pushing to have more records released, she says
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From Alexander Mooney
CNN Washington bureau
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NEWTON, Iowa (CNN) -- Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton said Tuesday her performance may have been lacking at last week's presidential debate, but brushed aside criticisms she has not been clear on where she stands on the issues.

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Sen. Hillary Clinton boards the CNN Election Express in Iowa Tuesday.

"I wasn't at my best the other night," Clinton told CNN's Candy Crowley. "We've had a bunch of debates and I wouldn't rank that up in my very top list.

"But I've answered probably, I don't know, more than 5,000 questions over the last 10 months and I have been very clear about where I stand and what I want to do for the country."

Clinton, a New York Democrat, came under intense criticism from her Democratic opponents during and after a debate last Tuesday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when she appeared to evade a question about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's policy of offering driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Video Watch Sen. Clinton outline the specific plans for the country »

"I understand the necessity for criticism," Clinton said. "We're getting toward the end of a very long presidential primary process."

She refuted the notion her Democratic rivals have teamed up against her because she is the lone woman in the race -- as high-profile Clinton supporters Geraldine Ferraro and Eleanor Smeal have suggested.

"In a campaign where people are trying to score political points and I am ahead, I am going to be attacked. That's what happens in campaigns. I don't have any problem with that. If they are going to use their energy in attacking me, that's their choice," Clinton said.

In the wide-ranging interview exactly a year before the election, Clinton continued to hold back from offering full-fledged support for a plan offering illegal immigrants driver's licenses, saying it's a question that doesn't allow a candidate to answer simply by "raising their hand."

"It depends upon what state they're in, it depends upon what [governors] think the risks are," Clinton said. "The governor of New York has a lot of immigrants, many of whom we know are not there legally; [he] has to worry about security. A governor of another state where that's not a problem doesn't.

"This issue has been so politicized," Clinton continued, "and I understand that, because you can score points, you can score all kinds of political, demagogic points."

Touching another hot-button issue from last week's debate, Clinton beat back criticisms she and her husband, former President Clinton, have delayed the release of National Archives documents dealing with their years in the White House.

"There have been a lot of misunderstandings," Clinton said of the issue. "Archives takes possession and control of presidential records -- they by law actually have to look at every record before its release."

"Bill has gone further than any other president ever in saying 'speed up the process, put things out, do it as quickly as possible,' " Clinton added. "But they have to follow the law and he's never ever said we're not going to put something out."

Staying on the subject of her famous husband, Clinton disagreed with rival candidate Sen. Joe Biden, who said Monday that Bill Clinton will likely unofficially assume the duties of vice president in his wife's administration -- rendering her actual vice president ceremonial.

"That's going to be news to my husband," Clinton said, laughing at the suggestion.

"There's so much work to be done, that's just not true," She said. "There's going to be a very vigorous foreign policy agenda that I am going to have a lot of people involved in, including my vice president."

Asked if she would consider being No. 2 on a presidential ticket should her own White House bid fail, Clinton said, "I am not going to think about that -- I am going to work every day between now and the end of this primary process."

Was that a maybe?

"No, it's not a maybe," Clinton said. "Because from my perspective, my job is to get up every day and make my case to the American people. I don't want to think beyond it."

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Less than 60 days before Iowans hold their first-in-the-nation caucus, Clinton is on a swing through the state to promote an energy plan that calls for increasing fuel standards to 55 mpg by 2030 and significantly reducing carbon emissions.

"It's going to take considerable effort just like we had to in the space race, and electrifying the country, like a lot of the other big challenges that America has faced," Clinton said of her plan. "But I am absolutely confident -- and I am excited -- this could be a great commitment for Americans from all walks of life." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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