WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton on Tuesday credited women with making a difference at all levels of government, asking an audience of female Democrats, "Don't you someday want to see a woman president?"
On the cusp of a second presidential campaign, the former secretary of state previewed some of the economic themes that could animate an upcoming race, pointing to an economy that too often fails to address the challenges faced by families and working mothers.
"We have to get our economy to reflect the realities of 21st century America, and we're not doing that," Clinton said at the 30th anniversary gala of EMILY's List, an organization that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights. "We're not doing that when the hard work of men and women across our country is not rewarded with rising wages, but CEO pay goes up and up no matter what."
Clinton's 30-minute address was punctuated by references to her future. She noted that during one's life, "you get a chance to make millions of decisions. Some of them are big, like 'Do you run for office?'"
Looking out at the ballroom of female Democrats, Clinton asked if they were hopeful of seeing more women running for local offices like school board member, governor, mayor and member of Congress. "I suppose it's only fair to say, 'Don't you someday want to see a woman president?'" she asked, generating loud applause.
Clinton steered clear of questions that emerged Tuesday about her use of a personal email account instead of a government-issued email address during her time as secretary of state. Republicans seized on the disclosures, accusing her of violating a law intended to archive official government documents. GOP officials have also amplified reports that the Clinton Foundation accepted donations from foreign governments ahead of an expected Clinton campaign.
"It speaks volumes that Hillary Clinton will gladly attend fancy galas yet continue to hide from the American people," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Allison Moore. She said voters deserved to know "why she only used private email while serving as secretary of state at the same time the Clinton Foundation accepted donations from foreign governments who were lobbying her State Department."
In her speech, Clinton accused Republicans of fostering policies promoting "trickle-down economics" but noted that both parties have spoken of ways to boost wages for middle-class workers. "We welcome them to come with their ideas and we will match them," Clinton said of the Republicans. "That's what elections should be about. Elections should be a contest of ideas."
The prospect of a Clinton campaign was invoked repeatedly by political leaders who have worked with the fundraising powerhouse, whose name is an acronym for "Early money is like yeast." The organization has a strong track record in Democratic politics, electing more than 100 women to the U.S. House, 19 to the Senate, 10 governors and more than 500 state and local officials.
"She's more than an idol," said Stephanie Schriock, EMILY's List's president, describing Clinton. "She's an inspiration — and a leader whose talents we desperately need."
The event brought to the stage Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the group's first endorsed candidate who recently announced her retirement, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely wounded in a deadly 2011 shooting during a political event at a Tucson, Arizona, shopping mall.
Giffords said female leaders deliver results, in places like city hall, state houses, governor's mansions and Congress, "and maybe soon, in the White House."
The organization has helped lay the groundwork for a potential Clinton campaign, holding events to promote the possibility of electing the nation's first female president and commissioning polling.
Ellen Malcolm, the founder of EMILY's List, pointed to Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign as the first step, bringing the audience to their feet when she identified 2016 as the "time to shatter that glass ceiling and put a woman in the White House." Clinton, seated in the audience, laughed and clapped along with the crowd.
"Hillary, you heard us," Malcolm said. "Just give us the word and we'll be right at your side."