The last few weeks have gone better than Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Bill Clinton hospitalized with sepsis We have a presidential leadership crisis — and it's only going to get worse MORE possibly could have imagined.
After a disastrous summer that raised serious questions about her presidential campaign, Clinton has been judged the winner of the first Democratic debate, seen Vice President BidenJoe BidenMcAuliffe holds slim lead over Youngkin in Fox News poll Biden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan MORE opt out of challenging her and delivered an impressive performance in testimony at a Capitol Hill hearing about the Benghazi terrorist attacks.
She also fit in a punchy appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” where she let herself be ribbed for not embracing gay marriage earlier.
Clinton has given new life to her campaign and is now riding high in the polls, including in New Hampshire, where some surveys now show her ahead of liberal rival Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Biden: We will fix nation's problems Left doubles down on aggressive strategy MORE (I-Vt.).
At the Democratic National Committee’s Women's Leadership Forum on Friday, she received a hero’s welcome.
“I wanted to rise above partisanship and reach for statesmanship, and that is what I tried to do,” Clinton told the cheering crowd of her 11 hours of testimony on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Clinton associates acknowledge she’s had some good fortune.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) comments linking Clinton’s dropping poll numbers to the GOP-led special committee on Benghazi were a disaster that gave her momentum and undercut Republican arguments that the panel was not interested in politics.
At the first debate, Sanders, her closest opponent, surprisingly told the audience and the country that he was “sick and tired of hearing about" her emails, a reference to the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server as secretary of State.
It was the most memorable moment of the night, and the viral video of it bolstered Clinton.
Still, allies say Clinton has improved her own performances, as illustrated at the debate and the House panel on Benghazi.
Her team also had successful policy launches, including a substantive gun control rollout that helped contrast herself with Sanders, who in the past voted against a high-profile bill to expand background checks for firearm purchases. And she came out against President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, boxing in Biden.
Allies describe those moves as pivotal victories for a campaign that had been lacking energy and momentum.
“It was a little touch and go there for a while, a little choppy,” said one longtime Clinton friend who requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the campaign’s trajectory thus far. “Even I had my doubts for a while, but we’re finally coming into smooth waters, I think. Knock on wood.”
Democratic strategist Jim Manley, who served as a spokesman to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), added that Clinton has recently “quieted some of the nervousness among Democrats and showed the American people why she deserves to be the next president of the U.S.”
Clinton heads back to the campaign trail this weekend.
She’ll face a friendly crowd, alongside husband Bill Clinton, at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday. And while she’ll spend the bulk of her time in that state and New Hampshire, she’ll also spend time continuing to reintroduce herself to the broader public by appearing on late now shows including “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” next week.
Clinton still has things to worry about, including an FBI investigation over her email. It’s still possible that investigation could unearth information that would counter Clinton’s Benghazi committee testimony.
“There’s a lot more twists to go with some more ups and downs,” said Manley.
Tracy Sefl, the Democratic consultant who served as a senior adviser to Ready for Hillary, said she’s wary of the characterization that Clinton is doing a "victory lap’" after her recent success.
“To the contrary, it seems like her successes of late are only fueling her to work harder, not taking a break to bask in it all,” Sefl said. “This is a candidate — and a campaign — that knows there is still very much a fight ahead.
“But for sure, it's very clear she's ready to win that fight,” she said.