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Hillary Clinton, Facing a Difficult Summer, Flexes Her Muscle

NYT FDMaggie Haberman 8/31/2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 9.51.28 AMGood Monday morning. As Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont continues to gain on her in the polls and as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. considers joining the race, Hillary Rodham Clinton has increased her efforts to show her foundational support.

For all the attention paid to Mrs. Clinton’s email controversy and political vulnerabilities, she retains significant strengths, including her fund-raising ability, her institutional support, her organizational muscle and her potential to make history as the first female president.

After a difficult summer, Mrs. Clinton and her team are increasingly highlighting some of those strengths.

For many weeks after she declared her candidacy, her campaign asked surrogates to hold organizing events to galvanize supporters instead of issuing paper statements about their support. But they’re now beginning to shift the spotlight toward major endorsements, including from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a longtime friend of Mrs. Clinton and the first member of the Obama administration to align publicly with her.

She is also planning to rely on Senator Jeanne Shaheen, of Mr. Sanders’s neighboring state of New Hampshire, whose key political aides went to work for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, as the candidate begins efforts to re-energize her base of female supporters.

Mrs. Clinton spent the weekend fund-raising in the Hamptons, where roughly 1,000 people turned out over three events. She was described as relaxed and engaged by people who saw her speak at the home of the fashion designer Tory Burch. While several guests said she didn’t linger on the subject of her email use, her aides pointed out an opinion article by the federal prosecutor overseeing the case against the former C.I.A. director David Petraeus, who was accused of knowingly sharing classified information. The prosecutor is now out of office, and she is a supporter of Mrs. Clinton. But she emphasizes that Mrs. Clinton’s situation is different than that of Mr. Petraeus, despite critics’ claims to the contrary.

It’s the aggressive defense that some of Mrs. Clinton’s more nervous supporters had hoped to see her give, and it suggests there will be more to come.