FALLS CHURCH, Virginia – Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made what could be considered her first big 2016 presidential campaign move on Saturday, endorsing former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia gubernatorial bid.
“I’ve been in a lot of elections,” Clinton said, prompting uproarious applause from the crowd of about 200 gathered inside a small concert and theater venue in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. “And I know, at the end of the day, it all comes down to who takes the trouble to show up and vote.”
Clinton, a former U.S. Senator from New York and first lady, is expected to make another bid of her own for the White House in 2016. Democratic Party insiders consider her the likely front-runner out of the gate against other potential candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (D-MA), Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator-elect Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), among others, should she decide to throw her hat in the ring again.
Clinton has come under fire for her roles as President Obama’s U.S. Secretary of State when four Americans–U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, former Navy SEALs–were murdered in a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. Not one Obama administration official who worked for Clinton at State, or any other agency in the administration, has been fired for their role leading up to, during, or after the terrorist attack, nor have the true perpetrators been arrested.
Clinton infamously said in congressional testimony after the Obama administration’s attempts to falsely claim the terrorist attack was a protest sparked by a YouTube video: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton was responding to questioning from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) during a hearing in January of this year. “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”
Most GOP presidential candidates have said Benghazi should preclude Clinton from running for president. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a possible 2016 GOP candidate, kicked that narrative off in an interview with Breitbart News earlier this summer. Others, like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), have said the same. Hillary Clinton’s role in Benghazi could even unite Republicans who are split along conservative and moderate lines right now. Even Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who has announced he is running for president and has spent the past several weeks attacking conservatives for their anti-Obamacare strategies, said he would pressure Clinton to answer for what happened with regard to Benghazi.
For their part, Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) say Clinton will not have to answer for scandals like Benghazi to run for the White House.
The McAulliffe event is Hillary Clinton’s first real public appearance since resigning her position as Secretary of State earlier this year. She has held fundraisers for McAuliffe but had yet to appear in public politically since leaving office.
McAuliffe’s gubernatorial bid is largely seen as a first test for Clinton, too. She and her husband Bill, according to Politico’s Maggie Haberman, are going “all out” for McAullife’s campaign for governor in Virginia.
“Terry McAuliffe spent most of the year running for Virginia governor as his own man, not the decades-long friend of Bill Clinton he’s best known as,” Haberman wrote in a piece published Saturday morning. “Yet by the time Election Day rolls around, Bill and Hillary Clinton will have held at least a dozen events between them for the man favored to become the Commonwealth’s next governor. Most of them are fundraisers, but on Saturday Hillary Clinton will hold a women-themed event for McAuliffe in Falls Church, Va., her first purely political outing since she left Foggy Bottom early this year.”
If McAuliffe wins the campaign this year, Hillary Clinton will have a powerful ally in the governor’s mansion in the purple state of Virginia when it comes time for both the Democratic primary and general election in 2016.