Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail

CLEVELAND, OH - On the third day of a bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with running mate Senator Tim Kaine, and Anne Holton, aboard the campaign bus in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday July 31, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Hillary Rodham Clinton made a sun-splashed appearance in Northern Virginia on Friday before a crowd of supporters convinced that her presidential campaign was suddenly on the upswing after a long and dreary summer.

One day after the former first lady, senator and secretary of state emerged unscathed from a marathon congressional hearing on Benghazi, she rallied thousands of fans outside Alexandria City Hall.

“Your fights are my fights and I won’t quit until all Americans have a chance to get ahead and stay ahead,” she said to cheers.

Clinton opened by remarking how nice it was to be “out in the sunshine,” a change from the day before, spent being grilled by Republicans.

“A lot of things have been said about me, but quitter is not one of them,” she said later.

The event in Alexandria was billed as a “grass-roots organizing meeting” with Clinton and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a longtime personal friend and fundraiser who helped lead her failed 2008 presidential bid.

McAuliffe helped whip up the crowd, which broke into chants of “Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry!” during his spirited introduction.

“She has fought for children, for families, her whole life,” McAuliffe said. “And let me tell you this — you want to talk about a fighter, how ’bout those 11 hours of testimony yesterday? Are you kidding me? I almost want to thank them [Republicans], because you saw in that 11 hours of testimony, this is why she needs to be our commander in chief.”

From the stage, McAuliffe also urged Virginians to vote in legislative elections Nov. 3, when control of the closely divided state Senate will be decided. He made a particular pitch for a state candidate from Northern Virginia, who is in a tight race for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William). Democrat Jeremy McPike, who is running against Manassas Mayor Harry J. “Hal” Parrish II (R), was given the chance to briefly address the crowd.

Clinton, too, urged everyone to vote in legislative races.

“Think of what he [McAuliffe] could do if he had partners in the state Senate and the statehouse,” Clinton said.

The mood was upbeat among thousands of supporters who filled Market Square around noontime, clapping along to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” and  Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”  as they blared through loudspeakers.  Some said they were relieved to see Clinton seemingly pull out of her summer slide.

“I think it’s gotten better,” said Earlene Edwards, 68, a retired account manager from Vienna. “She’s always had to struggle.”

Clinton was coming off Thursday’s daylong hearing on the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, during her time at the State Department. Her strong performance at the hearing followed what was widely seen as a winning appearance in the first Democratic debate Oct. 13. In the past week, two of her long-shot Democratic rivals have dropped out, and Vice President Biden announced that he would not jump into the race.

She still faces an unexpectedly powerful challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist from Vermont.

Republicans were not convinced that Clinton had put her troubles behind her.

“Everywhere Hillary Clinton goes, her campaign is overshadowed by unanswered questions regarding her secret e-mail server,” said Ali Pardo, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

“Clinton’s reckless attempt to skirt transparency laws put sensitive information and our national security at risk. With the FBI continuing to investigate, Hillary Clinton’s growing e-mail scandal shows she cannot be trusted with the White House.”

But to Clinton fans who watched her struggle for months, it seemed that her bid had taken a much-needed turn for the better.

“She’s had a great eight or nine days,” said Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), who got a shout-out from Clinton at the event.

“She’s a survivor,” said Elena Katsos, a government contractor who lives in Old Town Alexandria. She and a friend had pulled their 7-year-old daughters out of school to attend the early afternoon event. As they waited for Clinton to take the stage, the girls drew pictures of the candidate in crayon, along with slogans like “Go Hillary Clinton” and “Go, go, go.”

“This is history in the making,” Katsos said. “For us, it’s the theme of girl power.”

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