ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The Benghazi hearing and its 11-hour grilling session apparently left no scars on Hillary Clinton, who appeared radiant Friday at a rally before a roaring crowd in what has become a purple state.
“We know she’s a fighter. She’s been a fighter her whole life,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., as he introduced her to hundreds of Democrats, some of whom had been waiting for more than two hours. McAuliffe is a longtime Clinton family friend and raised money for Bill and Hillary Clintons’ previous campaigns.
Many at the rally said Thursday’s Benghazi hearing showed Clinton at her best.
“I thought she did very well. I thought she was cool, calm and collected just like she needed to be. It should help her get elected,” Robert Carpenter, 57, a retired computer specialist from Alexandria, said.
Clinton stood strong against the daylong questioning, and the committee lost its credibility by appearing partisan, said attorney and mother of three Christen English, 41, of Alexandria.
“I think yesterday came across as very partisan. I felt like it was a direct political attack on her, as opposed to trying to find out some information that might help the country,” English said.
Republican voter Erin Gallagher, 26, a government contractor from Alexandria, mistook the Hillary for America Rally for a Virginia Republican press conference scheduled earlier and a block away from the rally. She said, with a slight hesitation, that Clinton faced the Benghazi hearing committee with prowess.
“I thought it was the protest, and I got all confused. But I think she did a good job yesterday,” she said.
Clinton made no reference to the hearing during her 30-minute speech. She stuck to her agenda: be efficient, be inspiring, be relatable, and reach out to all parts of society.
She reminded her followers about the progress achieved by the Obama administration and the advancements Democrats made possible.
“Either we’re going to build on the progress we made under President Obama, or we’re going to give the Republicans another chance to tear down everything we’ve worked so hard to build,” Clinton said.
Virginia, which was reliably Republican in presidential elections for a generation, voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Alexandria is solidly Democratic. The old port city on the Potomac River has transformed its old town into a trendy shopping and residential area. The rally was held there, in Market Square outside of the city hall.
Clinton told the story of being “called by President Obama one day,” when he asked her to become secretary of state. She told the crowd that she is the granddaughter of a factory worker and is now a grandmother herself, in an effort to remind voters that was just like them.
“A lot of people don’t realize that my campaign is being built by small donors. Over 90 percent of my donations come from donors giving a hundred dollars or less,” Clinton said.
She said she will fight for paid family leave, putting college education within reach of more people, eliminating student debt and ensuring safety through gun control.
“I won’t be silenced. I will keep talking on the NRA. Everybody should be responsible and accountable for their actions, and that includes gun manufacturers, sellers and the NRA,” Clinton said, blaming these institutions for gun violence across the United States.
Equality was also a major part of her address. Clinton pointed to new data released by the Department of Labor, stating that while the U.S. economy is getting stronger, men’s wages are improving at a rate more than twice that of women’s wages.
“The minimum wage should be called what it is, a poverty wage. Many women are paid less than men for doing the same work and women of color earn even less,” Clinton said.
She concluded on a promise that electrified the crowd: “That’s what I’m going to fight for. For a country that opens doors again for everyone and where every father can say to his daughter that you can be anything you want, including president of the United States of America.”
Reach reporter Kelvin Suddason at [email protected] or 202-408-1494. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
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