Clinton thanked Vice President Joe Biden, who recently announced he would not run for President, calling him a friend and ally who “has been in the trenches with us for years.”
WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton took a victory lap Friday as she closes out a two-week run that has cemented her front-runner status for the Democratic nomination.
Clinton addressed a pair of adoring crowds around Washington D.C. just hours after wrapping up her day-long testimony to the House Benghazi Committee, handling a tough day and capping off a huge stretch that began with a strong debate showing.
“It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it?” she said with a smile as she kicked off her speech to a group of mostly female Democratic National Committee members Friday morning in D.C., just 12 hours after she’d emerged mostly unscathed from the Benghazi hearing room. “As some of you may know I had a pretty long day yesterday but I finally got to answer questions, something I’ve been pushing for literally a year. And I am just grateful I recovered my voice.”
A few hours later she basked in her victory, soaking up the sunshine and cheers from hundreds of adoring supporters in a historic square in suburban Alexandria, near George Washington’s home.
“I can’t tell you how great it feels to be here on this beautiful day out in the sunshine in such a historic setting,” a beaming Clinton told a roaring throng of hundreds of supporters.
Clinton’s calm and cool performance at the marathon Benghazi hearing has helped her poll numbers continue to swell following the Democratic debate.
She’s got reason to smile. The cheering crowds and bright sunshine in Alexandria couldn’t be more different than the crowded, hostile, windowless hearing room where Clinton was grilled the day before.
And In the span of two weeks Clinton delivered a highly touted debate performance, saw her main threat to the nomination disappear when Vice President Biden announced he wouldn’t run on Wednesday, and drew raves for her steely performance during a full day of aggressive Republican attacks at the House Benghazi Committee on Thursday. A wobbly front-runner as October began, Clinton now heads forward with a full head of steam.
“You wanna talk about a fighter, how about those 11 hours of testimony yesterday? That’s what I’m talking about!” an always-exuberant Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe roared as he introduced his longtime friend at her Virginia rally, pumping his fist in the air. “Are you kidding me? … And how about those debates last week? Folks, she’s got it all.”
Other Democrats touted Clinton’s steely Benghazi performance throughout the day.
Hillary Clinton addressed the House Benghazi Committtee for more than 11 hours on Thursday, allowing her to answer questions that she has wanted to answer for “literally a year.”
“We are very proud of Hillary Clinton. Wasn’t she wonderful yesterday?” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said to big cheers in her speech to the DNC.
The Clinton campaign’s tone has shifted dramatically in the span of weeks. Once cautious and beleaguered, staff were excited to chat about the state of the campaign, expressing relief they’re not talking (for now at least) about her use of a private email server and touting a big fundraising boost from the Benghazi hearings. According to Clinton’s staff, the hour after the Benghazi Committee ended Thursday night was their strongest online fundraising stretch of her entire campaign, even though they didn’t send out any fundraising appeals during that period.
And while they cautioned that there will be future bumps in the road, Clinton’s team was ready to enjoy the day.
“There’s no question that there’s a lot of momentum right now based upon the tremendous job that she’s done in the last couple weeks. We really do sense a burst of energy from our supporters,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon told the Daily News.
Clinton thanked Vice President Biden throughout the day, calling him a friend who “has been in the trenches with us for years” in her morning speech, and took repeated shots at the GOP, blasting them on healthcare, immigration, gun control and college affordability.
She even mocked the Benghazi Committee’s work by slamming Republicans’ calls for a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood.
“I think we all know by now that’s just code for a partisan witch hunt. Haven’t we seen enough of that?” she said to big cheers at the DNC speech.
Clinton allies insist they’re not taking for granted her remaining major rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander, though they’re seeing some promising poll numbers. Clinton leads the Vermont senator by 11 points in a new Iowa poll from Quinnipiac University, a shift from a neck-and-neck race the last time the pollster checked in on the state. And while Sanders still hold a lead in most post-debate New Hampshire polling, she’s stopped her slide in the other key early-voting state. With Biden out of the race, Clinton has a solid lead over Sanders in most national polls.
Sanders’s calls for a “political revolution” fell on deaf ears at the morning gathering of establishment Democrats, most of them in Clinton’s corner, as he addressed the DNC event an hour before Clinton. And while he still has a strong base in the party and is raising huge sums of money online, his momentum against Clinton seems to have stalled in the polls.
“Bernie Sanders is still a threat. He can still mobilize a significant portion of the Democratic base. But having said that, you see her campaign getting better, and she’s getting stronger, and more and more people who were nervous are feeling more comfortable with her,” Mo Elleithee, a 2008 Clinton spokesman who now teaches at Georgetown University, told reporters at the Virginia rally.
And while Clinton’s current staff wouldn’t admit they were glad Biden was out of the race, Elleithee said he knows “everyone in Brooklyn breathed a sigh of relief, and rightfully so,” when they heard Biden announce his decision.