- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, despite the heartbreaking loss of the presidential nomination that once seemed inevitably hers, put on a brave smile Tuesday as she returned to the Capitol for the first time since conceding defeat to Sen. Barack Obama.

A throng of reporters, fans and star-struck summer interns greeted Mrs. Clinton of New York as she arrived and climbed the east stairs of the Capitol, smiling and glad-handing her way campaign-style through the crowd.

She said it felt “great” to be back at the U.S. Senate.

Mrs. Clinton’s return coincided with her husband, President Bill Clinton, voicing support for the first time for Mr. Obama of Illinois, who clinched the nomination three weeks ago.

“President Clinton is obviously committed to doing whatever he can and is asked to do to ensure Senator Obama is the next president of the United States,” Bill Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna said in a written statement distributed to the press.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton told the Associated Press that a unified Democratic Party is going to be a “powerful force for change this year and we’re confident President Clinton will play a big role in that.”

It was not clear what role, if any, Mr. Clinton would play in the Obama campaign.

The two reportedly have not spoken to each other since the bitter nomination race ended, and Mr. Clinton is not expected to attend the unity rally with Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama set for Friday in Unity, N.H.

At the Capitol, fellow New York Democrat Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Mrs. Clinton was “back and rearing to go.”

Mrs. Clinton kept a positive frame of mind and returned to the Senate without trepidation after the nomination seemingly slipped through her fingers, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and a staunch supporter of the former first lady’s.

“What you do is you just pick up and go on, and I think that is an important characteristic of an individual to be able to do that. You don’t quit,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “You don’t move out. You keep going.”

Mrs. Feinstein reminded reporters that Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote in the election, a calculation made by the Clinton campaign that included votes cast in the formerly disputed primaries in Florida and Michigan.

“She’s got a large constituency of people rooting for her,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “She’s made a lot of friends in this campaign, and she has a great support network here in the Senate, so she will do just fine.”

She said there was no question about Mrs. Clinton’s role now that she was out of the presidential race.

“Her role is to be a great United States senator from New York, as she has been, is now and will be,” Mrs. Feinstein said.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Mrs. Clinton still has a “bright future” in her own right and he expected she would work hard to get Mr. Obama elected.

“Hillary Clinton is one of the most able people we have in public life,” said Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “I think her image is not an accurate image. I think she is a warm, caring, very smart, very good [politician], and I think she can and will have a very positive impact on policy going forward in whatever position she serves.”

“I think she is going to be an outstanding United States senator, or she can be an outstanding anything else she wants to be,” he said. “I think she’d be an outstanding vice president.”

Sean Lengell contributed to this report.

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