True joy is bigger than its own logic. That might explain why Hillary Clinton, rejuvenated presidential candidate and maestro of the Democratic debate, was in a Las Vegas suburb on Wednesday rhapsodizing about drywall.
“I was really interested to go around and see what happens here at this training center. I learned a lot about floor coverings and lasers and wallpaper hangers and drywall finishers and painters and even saw a virtual reality machine,” Clinton said shortly after touring a training facility for union workers, suggesting an unusual passion for housing construction.
Clinton was at the Henderson, Nevada, facility to accept the endorsement of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, wearing a lavender pantsuit that set her apart from the industrial surroundings. But more than that, she was basking in the afterglow of her commanding debate performance in Las Vegas, an important contest that will help propel her campaign into the fall.
Men with facial tattoos and industrial-sized tool belts stared gravely ahead as Clinton did her post-debate victory lap in front of the press corps. “I’m feeling really lucky in Las Vegas,” Clinton said, nodding at her stage presence the night before. “Last night was a good night, today is just as good.”
Clinton was noticeably confident after a long, sometimes painful summer that began with a deepening email scandal and a hostile television interview and has ended with several strokes of luck and renewed vigor.
There are finally signs the damaging controversy over her email server could be turning ever-so-slightly in her favor. Earlier this month, a top GOP member of the House, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, spoon-fed the Clinton campaign a zinger when he suggested the Benghazi committee was politically motivated to crash Clinton’s candidacy. In Tuesday night’s debate, Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief challenger for the Democratic nomination, shouted that he’d had it up to here with the Republican scandal-mongering over Clinton’s emails. “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” Sanders said.
And her debate performance, delivered in front of more than 15 million people on Tuesday night, has reassured her supporters and many undecided.
“It was monumental,” said former Democratic National Committee chair and Vermont Governor Howard Dean in an interview. “What people think of Hillary has been filtered through media, who have done a crappy job. Now you got to see her on television, speaking for her herself. … It’s also going to help reassure the nervous nellie Democrats who are supporting her.”
Clinton’s appearance in the debate allowed her to forcefully answer a number of questions that have nagging her candidacy. Is she an establishment politician? Clinton: “I can’t think of anything more of an outsider than electing the first woman president.” Is she part of a family dynasty? Clinton: “I certainly am not campaigning to become president because my last name is Clinton. I’m campaigning because I think I have the right combination of what the country needs.” Is she a flip-flopper? Clinton: “Like most people I know, I have a range of views, but they are rooted in my values and my experience.”
They were answers that will help her in fielding questions from the press and in interviews, and from Republicans if she is the Democratic nominee. In a short tete-a-tete with the press on Wednesday, Clinton answered a reporter who questioned her rationale for changing her views on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying that currency manipulation needs to be addressed in a trade bill.
After accepting the union endorsement on Wednesday, Clinton stopped for ice cream. At the La Flor De Michoacan ice cream parlor in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in North Las Vegas, Clinton joked and laughed with Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, of the Nevada state legislature, as she sampled a variety of flavors. She finally settled on lime, and went outside to take pictures with locals.
“I love you Hillary!” said a man in a blue Kangol hat. “You’re going to kill it!” Clinton smiled and waved.
Clinton held a rally in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening and went on the attack against Republicans. She stood underneath a massive artificial rock glowing under red, purple and pink lights, and told her audience how different the Republican and Democratic debates had been. “We were actually talking about what a president should be doing to make sure you have what you need to make the most out of your lives,” she said.
She also made a call for unity over Republicans and pitched her campaign to Latinos. “Immigration is who we are. Look around us,” she said to the large number of Latinos in the audience. “I think the Republicans are doing great damage to our nation by their insults and attacks on immigrants.”
In the middle of her comments, the Clinton campaign blasted emails out to reporters notching more victories: another GOP congressman, Rep. Richard Hanna, had just said the point of the Benghazi Committee was to “go after” Hillary Clinton. And then another email, with links to mainstream publications that said she was the “clear winner” of the debate, and soon after, an email digitally enshrining the IUPAT endorsement from earlier in the day.
But in a reminder that the judgments over the debates are often little more than an elaborate Rohrshach test for which candidate the partisan bleeds for, Bernie Sanders supporters claimed victory on Tuesday night. The Vermont senator had the numbers to prove it—he raised $2.5 million in the 24 hours after the debate, his campaign said—while Clinton had the corporate media to back her up.
Clinton fans, while often fond of Sanders, said their candidate shut down the upstart democratic socialist. When Sanders refused to call himself a capitalist during the debate, Clinton interjected, mocking his admiration of Denmark and the Nordic countries. “We are the United States of America,” Clinton said in the debate.
“She was on her game,” said AJ Dowden, a retired Air Force and Las Vegas metro police officer who attended the Clinton rally. “When she said ‘This isn’t Denmark,’ that was a good point. I lived in Denmark and you can’t compare.”