It’s hard to overstate Democratic satisfaction after Hillary Clinton‘s marathon testimony before the House Benghazi Committee Thursday. The 11-hour session carried live on cable networks offered the Democratic front-runner what essentially became a free campaign infomercial, as she deftly parried hostile questions from Republicans. It was such a good day for Clinton that even the Republican chairman of the committee, Trey Gowdy, was at a loss for what he learned from the three rounds of questioning as his committee’s credibility was repeatedly challenged by Democrats and Clinton allies. Clinton managed to reinforce her well-regarded record as a diplomat as she delivered what amounted to a stump speech on her foreign policy vision, calling for sustained American leadership in the world through diplomacy first, and force as a last resort.
Aides to Republicans running for president had viewed the entire endeavor warily for months, and saw many of their worst fears confirmed. “She’s going to wipe the floor with the House Republicans, the best we can hope for is avoiding total disaster,” a top GOP 2016 staffer told TIME as it got underway. Conservative columnists griped about the tone and substance of the Republican members” questions, suggesting they were just handing the White House to Clinton.
In the end, Clinton managed to build on her momentum from the first Democratic debate and earned a talking point to use to rile up her own base—pointing to the accusatory tone of the GOP in a hearing that lasted longer than many of those around 9/11 and which veered far from its stated mission. And while a probe continues into her email server, Clinton can now point to the grueling panel to deflect questions.
President Obama, Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Lincoln Chafee will address the DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum Friday. Chafee is promising an “update” on his flailing campaign days after Jim Webb ended his similarly quixotic bid.
Ben Carson has taken the lead in Iowa over Donald Trump, and the reality television star and businessman wasn’t too happy about it. He retweeted an insult to Iowa voters who were leaving him and GMO corn, but later backtracked saying a “young intern” sent the message and apologized. Trump remains ahead in polls nationally, but he is losing his status as unrivaled front-runner as Carson continues to gain steam. Trump faces a new effort from conservative groups to take him down over his support for the use of eminent domain to boost development.
Paul Ryan will almost certainly be the next Speaker of the House, but faces a difficult road ahead managing his unruly GOP conference. Sanders is backing away from the Obama legacy. And Obama defends the Black Lives Matter movement.
Here are your must-reads:
The Four Biggest Challenges for Speaker Ryan
TIME’s Jay Newton-Small lays out the obstacles ahead
How Hillary Clinton Won the Benghazi Hearing
She avoided obvious missteps and defended her time at Foggy Bottom, TIME’s Sam Frizell writes
Pro-Trump Super PAC Shutting Down Amid Questions About Ties to Trump Campaign
Arrangement drew scrutiny from press [Washington Post]
McConnell Presses Paul to Focus on Senate Bid
Concerns Paul could put safe Senate seat in jeopardy as he continues presidential run [Politico]
Donald Trump Faces a New Threat: A Big-Money Campaign to Bring Him Down
The Club for Growth prepares to go on offense over an unlikely issue [Fortune]
“Uh, I think some of Jimmy Jordan’s questioning. Well, when you say new today, we knew some of that already, about the emails. In terms of her testimony? I don’t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous times she’s testified.” — House Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy struggles to explain what was learned Thursday
“We need to mobilize tens of millions of people to begin to stand up and fight back and to reclaim the government, which is now owned by big money. Do I think that that was the work — was that the goal of the president and the vice president? Not really, I don’t think so.” — Bernie Sanders indicating on MSNBC Wednesday that he won’t run on the Obama record
Bits and Bites
Iowa Poll: Carson Surges to 9-Point Lead; Trump Slides [Des Moines Register]
Lincoln Chafee Plans Update to His Campaign [New York Times]
Super PAC Behind Kasich Plans Ground Blitz in New Hampshire [Associated Press]