Clinton revels in signs that Dems are coalescing around her

Posted at 1:19 PM, Oct 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-23 14:29:50-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton took a celebratory lap around Washington on Friday, reveling in signs Democrats are coalescing around her White House candidacy after an 11-hour grilling by House Republicans.

Joking about her "long day," Clinton told female supporters gathered for a party event that she tried to "rise above partisanships and reach for statesmanship" in her testimony before a Republican-led congressional committee investigating Clinton's handling of the 2012 deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

"I am just grateful I recovered my voice, which I lost a little bit," Clinton said, with a smile, at an address to the Women's Leadership Forum, an organization she helped start as first lady.

Amid questioning that at times bordered on a courtroom-style interrogation, Clinton avoided any major gaffes in her Thursday testimony as she sought to portray herself above the partisan fray as committee members bickered.

The hearing surfaced little new information about the attacks and landed no blows to Clinton's presidential aspirations, leaving Republicans without a memorable moment to promote as Clinton approaches the first primary contests.

"You saw that 11 hours of testimony? This is why she needs to be our commander in chief," said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton confident, at a Friday afternoon campaign event. "Folks, she's got it all."

While Clinton aides tried to downplay her winning streak, stressing that capturing the Democratic primary nomination will still require a lot of work, they noted her commanding performance in both last week's debate and her congressional testimony. Both showed off her foreign policy credentials and command of the issues for a broader audience, they said.

"You cannot knock her down," said Clinton campaign communications director Jen Palmieri. "People see that and they can easily see that that this woman could be our next president."

There were some early signs Friday the marathon session in front of Congress, coming one day after Vice President Joe Biden announced his decision not to run, may have helped Clinton solidify support within her party.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, a Biden supporter, announced his endorsement for Clinton on Friday afternoon.

"Hillary will make an excellent president," he said in a statement. "No other candidate has such a deep connection to women, children, families and their day-to-day struggles."

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees also endorsed Clinton on Friday, giving her the backing of an important union. Her campaign said contributions flooded in after her testimony, with the hour between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. becoming the best fundraising period of the campaign to date.

"She was glowing," said Pamela Eakes, a major Clinton donor from Seattle who met privately with Clinton before her Friday speech. "We're grateful to Republicans for giving her the best week ever."

Along with Biden, two of her other challengers — former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee — dropped out of the Democratic race this past week.

"Obviously it's a good week for Secretary Clinton," Chafee said. "I'm moving on now. It's time to move on and support the party any way I can."

While Clinton's aides acknowledged the run of good news, they stressed she was not taking anything for granted.

"It is going to be really hard to get the Democratic nomination," Palmieri said. "I think she will, but it's going to be really hard. Iowa and New Hampshire are very competitive."

On Saturday, Clinton will travel to Iowa for an appearance at the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner before more than 6,000 activists. The event marked then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's breakout performance in the fall of 2007, setting him on a path toward a surprise win in the Iowa caucuses.

Clinton will be joined by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who is making one of his first appearances on the campaign trail since his wife launched her campaign.