Hillary Clinton closes her binder last night after 11 hours in the hot seat on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

THE BIG IDEA:

This has been the best week of the Clinton presidential campaign. After Hillary Clinton won the first debate, Vice President Biden declared Wednesday he would not challenge her. Then Thursday she tamed House Republicans during an 11-hour appearance before the Benghazi panel. The trio of big wins gives her big momentum going into Saturday’s Jefferson-Jackson Democratic Party dinner in Des Moines.

If she had stumbled at the debate, Biden had jumped in and/or a bombshell had dropped during her congressional testimony, the race for the White House could look very different. Instead, 100 days out from the Iowa caucuses, HRC is as much the front-runner for the Democratic nomination as ever.

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— Here are eight reasons the former secretary of state emerged not just unscathed, but stronger, from her marathon Benghazi testimony

  1. The GOP landed no solid punchesIn a striking moment after the hearing adjourned at 9 p.m., Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the committee chairman, told reporters he learned nothing new from Clinton’s testimony. “I don’t know that she testified that much differently today than she has in the previous times she’s testified,” he said. Outside the cloakroom late Thursday, many Republicans were subdued. Our colleague Bob Costa relays that there was no celebrating and, privately, many admitted Clinton was formidable.
  2. Clinton looked like a fighter, something the Democratic base craves. One of Hillary’s problems is that primary voters in the early states think she lacks fire in the belly (that’s part of what Bernie Sanders is tapping into). Thursday, Clinton looked more like a David throwing rocks than a Goliath wearing armor.
  3. Clinton rose above the political fray. Hillary didn’t appear to be testifying for a Democratic primary audience, leaving the political points to her Democratic counterparts on the committee (who repeated many of the same talking points being pushed by her campaign).  She sat, looking bemused, while Gowdy and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings clashed heatedly during the most dramatic moment of the hearing. She appealed for “common ground” and “statesmanship” on foreign policy, an effort to clean up her declaration during last week’s debate that Republicans are her “enemy.”
  4. Clinton became a sympathetic figure when the Republicans badgered. GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo (Kan.) was ridiculed, including by conservative thought leaders, for pressing Clinton on whether Ambassador Chris Stevens had her personal e-mail, cellphone number, fax number, or home address. The Kansan’s argument that Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal had more access to Clinton than the ambassador to Libya looked ham-handed. Alabama Rep. Martha Roby got mocked online for asking Hillary if she spent the night alone after the Benghazi attack. When Hillary laughed, Roby did not understand why and became upset.
  5. Clinton committed no made-for-TV gaffe. Hillary clearly prepared carefully, and it showed. This was the strongest of her three congressional appearances related to Benghazi. Most importantly, she avoided giving her opponents the kind of devastating soundbite that she did two years ago when she told Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), waving her arms: “What difference, at this point, does it make!?” That line remains a staple of Republican stump speeches. There was no parallel Thursday.
  6. Clinton did not seem evasive, which could help with her trustworthiness problem. Sitting there and taking every question made Hillary look transparent, especially after the spring scandal over her failure to turn over e-mails and the summer stories about refusing to give interviews to the national media. Remember, George W. Bush only agreed to speak with the 9/11 Commission for one hour – and in private. Under oath, Clinton could have been exceedingly cautious about what she revealed. But, precisely because she is a presidential candidate, she was surprisingly expansive.
  7. Clinton looked presidential. She vigorously defended her State Department record and showed her understanding of foreign affairs. She came across as serious and dignified, and her presence filled the room. She recounted in grueling detail the chaos and uncertainty of the night of the attacks: “This was the fog of war,” she said dramatically. In perhaps the most powerful moment of the day, she declared: “I would imagine I’ve thought more about what happened than all of you put together. I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been racking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done.”
  8. The 67-year-old showed impressive stamina. Not counting the breaks, Hillary (who turns 68 on Monday) spent more than eight hours testifying. She has a pretty intense campaign schedule Friday. The hearing was so newsless that conservative media outlets turned toward minor details: The Drudge Report leads this morning with a Weekly Standard item about a coughing fit Clinton had in the final hour of her testimony. But bottom line: Clinton’s endurance was impressive.
Here are top moments from the House Select Committee hearing on Benghazi where former secretary of state Hillary Clinton testified in October 2015. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

— The mainstream media — in print, online and on the air — is playing this as pretty much a nothing burger, which is great news for Clinton.

  • Washington Post A1 analysis by Karen DeYoung: “Republicans land only glancing blows in day-long rehash.”
  • ABC: “The ‘get Hillary’ committee did not get Hillary.”
  • CBS: “Clinton took more than 300 questions … but what came out of it?”
  • NBC: “In The GOP Attempt To Look Apolitical, Clinton Won.”
  • CNN: “Clinton avoided major damage to her presidential campaign.”
  • Even Fox News, which deserves more credit than anyone for making Benghazi such a big dang deal, cut away from live coverage of the hearing hours before it ended. Leading its Web site this morning is a story about an illegal immigrant who beat a toddler in California. The headline on its leadeall is: “Clinton seeks to turn page on Benghazi after testimony – but can she?”
  • New York Times: “At Hearing, Clinton Lets Others Do Shouting.”
  • USA Today: “No clear wins for GOP at Benghazi hearing.”
  • Boston Globe: “Clinton remains unruffled”
  • Bloomberg: “Clinton holds ground…”
  • NPR: “Clinton endures…”
  • Politico: “Clinton survives…”
  • Chicago Tribune: “11-hour grilling … reveals little new”

— Liberal commentators, who have often been critical of Clinton this year, rose to her defense. This matters because, right now, Hillary needs to shore up support to secure the nomination. Attacks from the right could help prod liberals to fall in line sooner than later.

  • Huffington Post: “Even conservatives realize (the hearing) was ridiculous.”
  • Vox.com: “Clinton’s 11-hour testimony was her best campaign ad yet.”
  • Matt Taibbi, who writes for Rolling Stone: “The Republicans may have just won Hillary the election.”
  • The Guardian: “Clinton deflects conservative jabs.”
  • The New Republic senior editor Jeet Heer: “So if the goal was to show that Hillary Clinton is smart as a whip and has remarkable stamina, the hearing was a success.”
Hillary Clinton reacts as Trey Gowdy and Elijah Cummings argue. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— Donald Trump is now without a super PAC. We reported early this week on multiple connections between Trump and the Make America Great Again PAC. Mike Ciletti, the Colorado-based operative running the group, said he had decided to close up shop to erase any doubts about coordination. “It’s an issue that I have relationships with Mr. Trump’s staff,” he said in a phone interview. “I will eliminate the questions and shut down the super PAC.” (Matea Gold)

— Lincoln Chafee probably dropping out of the race today. The Rhode Islander said on Twitter that he’ll address “the future” of his campaign in a speech to the Democratic National Committee women’s forum this morning. He blew in the debate and only raised $11,000 last quarter. A Rhode Island radio host asked Chafee last night on Twitter: “Sources at Daves market say you were overheard in frozen food aisle yesterday, on your cell, saying you were ending campaign.” Chafee’s spokesman did not respond. (Hat tip: Dave Weigel)

— Patricia, which strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane yesterday, is poised to cause massive devastation to Mexico. “Hurricane Patricia became the strongest storm ever measured on the planet early Friday with experts warning it could trigger 39-foot waves along Mexico’s coast and ‘life-threatening’ flash flooding,” NBC reports. “Several million residents were told to prepare for the “worst-case scenario” as Patricia was expected to race ashore on Mexico’s Pacific coast around 7 p.m. on Friday. The tourist magnets of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo were directly in the Category 5 storm’s projected path.”


The latest satellite image provided by NOAA

— One killed and three wounded during an 11 p.m. shooting on Tennessee State University’s campus in Nashville. The Tennessean reports that “a dispute over a dice game at an outdoor courtyard led to the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man.” A police spokesman told the paper that one of the parties pulled out a gun and started firing multiple rounds: “In addition to the man killed, three women students, who were just passing by, were wounded. One of the women suffered minor injuries, another was taken to the hospital and has since been released. A third woman remains at the hospital and is expected to be released soon.”

In France, at least 43 died this morning after a bus full of elderly people from a senior center crashed into a tractor trailer.

The mother of Freddie Gray, the black Baltimore man who died in police custody, attempted suicide. Gloria Darden is now undergoing psychiatric evaluation, according to Baltimore’s CBS affiliate.

Paul Ryan leaves a meeting yesterday with moderate Republicans . (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

GET SMART FAST:

  1. The family of ex-Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, who was killed in Benghazi, is still struggling to collect death benefits from the government. (Catherine Ho)
  2. Paul Ryan formally declared his bid for speaker after moderate Republicans backed him, clearing the way for him to take the gavel next week. (Full text of his “Dear Colleague” letter.)
  3. American and Kurdish commandos raided an Islamic State prison in Iraq, freeing about 70 captives believed to be facing “mass execution” but leaving one U.S. soldier dead. “It was the first time a member of the U.S. military had been killed in a combat situation in Iraq since President Obama pulled out all U.S. troops in 2011,” per Missy Ryan, Mustafa Salim and Thomas Gibbons-Neff.
  4. Texas health investigators subpoenaed hundreds of documents from Planned Parenthood offices across the state, including patient records and employee addresses. The gambit came three days after the state announced plans to defund the group. (Danielle Paquette and Sandhya Somashekhar)
  5. Arizona paid more than $27,000 to import from India an illegal drug for executions by lethal injection, but agents from the FDA stopped the shipment at the airport. (The Arizona Republic)
  6. “A year after auditors documented tens of thousands of federal workers on paid leave for at least a month and longer stretches that exceed a year, close to 100 Department of Homeland Security employees still are being paid NOT to work for more than a year,” Lisa Rein reports.
  7. Government investigators blamed the EPA for that waste-water spill from a Colorado gold mine, saying a cleanup crew from the agency rushed its work and failed to consider the complex engineering involved, triggering the very blowout it hoped to avoid. (AP)
  8. The FBI opened a hate-crime investigation into an alleged attack on a Muslim woman by an Indiana University college student who shouted racial slurs and tried to remove her headscarf. “Triceten Bickford, 19, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, has been charged with multiple felony charges, including intimidation, strangulation and battery, in the attack on the 47-year-old woman outside a Turkish café,” the AP reports. The victim was with her 9-year-old daughter.
  9. The full Senate voted to advance a major cybersecurity bill over opposition from some industry groups. (Karoun Demirjian)
  10. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance, 15-5, the comprehensive criminal justice reform bill about which I’ve been writing.
  11. Russia troublingly offered cover for Iran over its ballistic missile test, dragging its feet on a U.N. Security Council investigation. (Reuters)
  12. The average price online for a ticket to a Mets home game in the World Series is $1,667.82, per the New York Daily News.

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. An Iowa jury acquitted Jesse Benton, a longtime aide to both Ron and Rand Paul, on charges of lying to the FBI. That effectively clears Benton, who was under an ethical cloud since a December 2011 decision to pay a state senator for his endorsement. He alluded to James 1:2-3 in his first post-acquittal tweet.
  2. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will use an executive order to protect transgender people from discrimination in housing and employment. (NYT)
  3. President Obama vetoed the NDAA, just the fifth time he’s used the pen, citing the way it sidestepped sequestration and restrictions on the transfer of detainees away from Guantanamo Bay. Now Congress will try, and fail, to override. (Steven Mufson)
  4. Kaci Hickox, the nurse who was held for three days in quarantine at a Newark hospital last year after aiding Ebola patients in West Africa, filed a lawsuit against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (The Bergen Record)
  5. With Trump appearing on “SNL” tomorrow, the head of the FCC said he will enforce the “equal time” rules for candidates. (National Journal)
  6. About two dozen of the nation’s top Hispanic conservative activists are meeting in Boulder, Colo., next Tuesday on the eve of the CNBC debate to talk about stopping Trump. (Ed O’Keefe scoop)
  7. Even though it’s a show vote, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Mike Lee announced they oppose a House bill to be voted on today to repeal large portions of Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood and reiterate Republican plans for deep spending cuts. “They argue that the bill does not completely wipe Obamacare off the books and therefore does not go far enough,” per Kelsey Snell.
  8. Hillary will appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Nov. 5.
  9. Jack Dorsey says he’s giving a third of his Twitter shares — or 1 percent of the company — to Twitter’s employees. (TechCrunch)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

— “Secret Service officers found asleep on job; watchdog warns of overworked staff,” by Carol D. Leonnig: “A federal watchdog on Thursday sent the U.S. Secret Service a formal warning that its overworking of employees is jeopardizing security — citing the discovery that two Secret Service officers were asleep at their posts, according to three government officials familiar with the findings. The inspector general who oversees the Secret Service issued a management alert, a formal designation that indicates investigators have found a problem so urgent or sweeping that it requires swift attention from senior management. ‘This alert describes officer safety issues that may pose an immediate or potential danger to U.S. Secret Service officers and those whom they protect,’ the inspector general’s alert says. ‘We are concerned that the Secret Service’s staffing and scheduling process does not ensure that officers receive adequate breaks while on duty and time off between shifts.'”

— “Vatican meeting reveals growing Catholic divide over divorce and homosexuality,” by Anthony Faiola: “At one point during a major summit of the Roman Catholic hierarchy that will end this weekend, a senior conservative bishop took the floor inside the Vatican’s assembly hall and promptly charged his liberal peers with doing the devil’s work. The three-week gathering, known as a synod, has erupted into a theological slugfest over Pope Francis’s vision for a more inclusive church, displaying the most bitter and public infighting since the heady days of Catholic reform in the 1960s … It was just another day at a synod that — more than any single event since Francis began his papacy in 2013 — has highlighted the extent his outreach to once-scorned Catholics has triggered a tug-of-war for the soul of the Catholic Church. More important, it underscored just how hard it may be for the pontiff to recast the church he serves in his image.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: TV cared a lot more about the Benghazi hearing than social media did. The Benghazi story played very differently across different media. On Twitter, debate coverage dominated any chatter about Benghazi. On debate night, there were more than 600,000 mentions of HRC on Twitter. On Thursday, there were about 365,000 tweets. On debate day, a majority of Clinton’s social media mentions referenced the Vegas confab; on Thursday, 36 percent of the Tweets talked about Benghazi. To get some sense of scale in terms of total social media interest, here is a look from our analytics partners at Zignal Labs at the last two weeks on Clinton mentions on Twitter:

oct23a

BUT the gap between Testimony Day and Debate Day was much smaller on television, indicating a much greater weight being given to the Benghazi story on TV:

oct23b

The numbers show that TV producers and bookers believe their audience cares a lot more about the Benghazi story than those who are active on social media. But since Twitter’s audience skews younger than the average TV audience, the numbers also seem to indicate that, when it comes to Benghazi, older voters are more interested in the story than younger Americans.

— Pictures of the day:

British Prime Minister David Cameron drinks a pint of beer with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a pub near Chequers yesterday:

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, pool)

Jeb Bush could not name an “Avenger” when asked who his favorite is, but he said that the woman who plays “Supergirl” on the new CBS show looks “pretty hot.” Here she is:

“Supergirl” is CBS’ new action-adventure drama based on the comics character Kara Zor-El (played by Melissa Benoist). She’s supposed to be Superman’s cousin who, after 12 years of keeping her powers a secret on Earth, decides to finally embrace her superhuman abilities and become the hero she was always meant to be. (Darren Michaels/CBS)

— Scenes from inside the Benghazi committee room:

Clinton sat on a pillow for an extra boost.

Hillary’s entourage sat behind her:

(Melina Mara/ The Washington Post)

Sketches by The Post’s Ann Telnaes:

Gowdy arguing with Cummings as HRC smiles:

In the second round:

–Tweets of the day:

Former Obama adviser David Axelrod remarked upon the GOP’s obsession with Sidney Blumenthal:

Mike Huckabee left us with a colorful image:

Trump’s account retweeted a message suggesting that he fell behind Ben Carson in the latest Quinnipiac poll of caucusgoers (28 percent to 20 percent) because GMO’s in corn seed cause brain damage:

Hawkeye State leaders quickly took umbrage, prompting Trump to delete the tweet and deflect blame:

–Instagrams of the day:

A guide to Gowdy’s haircuts over time:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

Rowan County (Ky.) Clerk Kim Davis (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

— New York Times, “Mormons say duty to law on same-sex marriage trumps faith,” by Jack Healy: “Despite its deep opposition to same-sex marriage, the Mormon Church is setting itself apart from religious conservatives who rallied behind a Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who cited her religious beliefs as justification for refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In a speech this week about the boundaries between church and state, Dallin Oaks, a high-ranking apostle in the church, said that public officials like Ms. Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, Ky., had a duty to follow the law, despite their religious convictions … ‘Office holders remain free to draw upon their personal beliefs and motivations and advocate their positions in the public square,’ Elder Oaks said. ‘But when acting as public officials, they are not free to apply personal convictions, religious or other, in place of the defined responsibilities of their public offices. All government officers should exercise their civil authority according to the principles and within the limits of civil government.'”

John Kerry speaks with Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin yesterday. (Carlo Allegri/Pool Photo via AP)

— Wall Street Journal, “Spy vs. Spy: Inside the fraying U.S.-Israel Ties,” by Adam Entous: “The U.S. closely monitored Israel’s military bases and eavesdropped on secret communications in 2012, fearing its longtime ally might try to carry out a strike on Fordow, Iran’s most heavily fortified nuclear facility. Nerves frayed at the White House after senior officials learned Israeli aircraft had flown in and out of Iran in what some believed was a dry run for a commando raid on the site. Worried that Israel might ignite a regional war, the White House sent a second aircraft carrier to the region and readied attack aircraft, a senior U.S. official said, ‘in case all hell broke loose’ … Instead of talking to each other, the allies kept their intentions secret. To figure out what they weren’t being told, they turned to their spy agencies to fill gaps … U.S. and Israeli officials say they want to rebuild trust but acknowledge it won’t be easy. Mr. Netanyahu reserves the right to continue covert action against Iran’s nuclear program, said current and former Israeli officials, which could put the spy services of the U.S. and Israel on a collision course.”

— USA Today, “Donald Trump: On Raising Rates, Running Mates and Biden’s decision,” by Susan Page: Page interviews The Donald, and unsurprisingly, he has a lot to say. Among the nuggets: Trump is already thinking about running mates and some of them are his rivals; he thinks the Federal Reserve should have already raised interest rates; and zings rivals not doing so well in the GOP contest, like Bobby Jindal  (an “embarrassment” to the party); George Pataki (with “zero” percent); and Sen. Lindsey Graham (“very sad”). He also said he intended to tone down his rhetoric as the campaign enters a new phase: “You know, before, we had 17 people (running) and we were all out there fighting and I had people out there hitting me,” he said, adding that now “we’re so far out in front that there’s no reason to be quite the way we were, and I do want to tone it down a little bit, but at the same time I don’t want to lose the energy.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

C-SPAN caller asks why there’s no ‘white caucus’ in Congress. From TPM: “C-SPAN callers are a special breed: civically engaged, obsessive politicos, and sometimes very racist. The network got a live one during a break from Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony on Thursday, with a caller asking why Congress doesn’t have a ‘white caucus.’ The man who identified himself as David, a Republican calling from Glendale, Ariz., didn’t waste time when he got on air. ‘Hi, I’d like to know why there is not a white caucus in Congress,’ David said.” Watch here.

HOT ON THE RIGHT

‘Confidential’ Planned Parenthood video leaked. From Politico: “Complete raw footage from the Planned Parenthood videos surfaced Thursday on the conservative website Got News?, whose editor said he had gotten it from a House staffer despite lawmakers’ pledge to keep it confidential. Editor Charles Johnson released the full footage Thursday even after the National Abortion Federation got a temporary restraining order a day earlier prohibiting any dissemination. Johnson vowed to ‘contest any unconstitutional prior restraint of speech.'”

DAYBOOK:

— What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Jeb Bush attends a presidential candidate forum with Pat Robertson at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Donald Trump rallies supporters in Jeb’s home base of Miami. Ben Carson continues his book tour in Overland Park and Topeka, Kan., and Omaha, Neb. In Iowa, Bobby Jindal will stop in Ankeny, Des Moines and Waukee while Cruz makes a sweep in Glenwood, Sidney, Clarinda, Atlantic and Council Bluffs. In N.H., Kasich is holding events in Manchester, Milford and Concord while Lindsey Graham campaigns in Rochester, Milton and Rye. Mike Huckabee is in Boiling Springs and Greenville, S.C., while Marco Rubio is in Columbia. Martin O’Malley meets with refugees in Dearborn, Mich.

— On the Hill: The Senate is not in session. The House meets at 9 a.m. for legislative business. First and last votes on the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act are expected between 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

— At the White House: President Obama delivers remarks at the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum and attends a DNC roundtable. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’d prefer not to talk about security issues but I have recognized — and people have been telling me for many, many months — that I’m in great danger because I challenge the secular progressive movement to the very core.” – Ben Carson discussing why he wants to get Secret Service protection (BuzzFeed)

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

Expect Metro delays because of a switch problem outside the Pentagon stop: Trains are sharing a track on the Blue Line between Arlington Cemetery and Pentagon City. On the Yellow Line , trains are sharing a track between L’Enfant Plaza and Pentagon City. There are also delays on the Green Line due to those issues. Updates here.

Perfect autumn weather today! “Sunshine should return with fewer clouds filtering it, but we will notice a cool-down. You can thank a northerly breeze around 10 mph assisting with filtering in this cooler drier air. By late afternoon we should get most of the region into the mid-60s to near 70,” forecasts the Capital Weather Gang.

The Caps beat Vancouver 3-2.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan laid out a plan to overhaul the Baltimore bus system.

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Tensions flared at Benghazi hearing.

— The Benghazi hearing summarized in three minutes.

— Clinton says she’s “lost more sleep” over Benghazi than lawmakers.

— Clinton laughs in response to a question about whether she was alone all night on the night of the Benghazi attacks:

— Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) rips a piece of paper meant to symbolize requests for more security protection in Benghazi:

— A Republican staffer tries hard not to fall asleep during the proceedings, from CNN politics:

— Clinton brushes something off her shoulder:

— Finally, John Boehner tells the history of his gavel (Spoiler: the wood comes from a tree on one of the hardest holes of his favorite golf courses in Ohio!):

Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a video detailing the story behind his gavel. (YouTube/John Boehner)

Have a great weekend! Maybe you can get some golfing in before the weather takes a turn for the worse…