She spoke at a gala fund-raising dinner in Washington honoring the 30th anniversary of Emily’s List, a super PAC that recruits and supports pro-choice women candidates. The group is already working alongside other pro-Clinton super PACs. The entire event had the flavor of a Clinton-for-president pep rally, with many of the speakers suggesting that 2016 is finally the year to elect a woman president.
If there was an audience waiting to be called to action for a Hillary 2016 campaign, this was it. It also might have been an opportunity to neutralize some of the mini-controversies beginning to gather around her uncampaign. She did not address the news this week that she exclusively used private e-mail accounts to conduct her official business as secretary of state.
In her introduction of Clinton, Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock lavished praise on the likely candidate, calling her “more than an idol” but “an inspiration.” She made the evening’s only reference, however veiled, to the controversies now swirling around Clinton.
“Nobody in American political history has faced more unfair attacks, more desperate opposition, more overcoming adversity than Hillary,” Schriock said. “She’s shown us all how to shake off the setbacks.”
Clinton gave a workmanlike speech safely rooted in the same themes of economic fairness and women’s opportunity she has stressed for months as she readies a second try for the White House.
“We’re fighting for an economy that works for everyone and includes everyone,” Clinton said. “We can’t leave talent on the sidelines.”
The reaction was mostly polite and muted, except for her one big applause line. By contrast, other speakers got rollicking applause when they mentioned Clinton’s likely candidacy.
“In 2016, it’s time to shatter that glass ceiling and put a woman in the White House. Do you want Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States?” Emily’s List founder Ellen Malcolm asked earlier in the program.
As large video monitors behind Malcolm showed a grinning Clinton seated near the stage, many in the crowd rose to their feet and applauded.
“Well? Hillary?” Malcolm said jokingly. “You heard us. Just give the word and we’ll be right at your side. We’re ready to fight and we’re ready to win in 2016.”
Clinton kept her seat and laughed.
Former House speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the largely female crowd of about 1,600 that “when she runs, when she wins” Clinton will be a great president.
Former Rep. Gabreille Giffords (D-Ariz.), wounded in a mass shooting, drew loud applause for brief remarks delivered with effort.
“Strong women get things done,” Giffords said. “We lead, we collaborate, we deliver results. In city halls, in state houses, in governors’ mansions, in Congress. And maybe, soon, in the White House.”
A couple of rising Democratic rising stars delivered rousing speeches, including California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for Senate, and Ayanna Pressley, who sits on the Boston City Council. The evening featured many tributes to the retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, (D-Md.), one of Emily’s List first success stories.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) apologized “for being a guy.”
A couple of mentions of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also won applause. Warren is the darling of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and the object of a presidential draft movement. She has said she is not running, and appears to be making no moves toward doing so. Warren did not attend the gala, a rare absence among Democratic members of Congress.
But the night was Clinton’s, who exited the stage to the Katy Perry lyrics, “I will love you unconditionally.”