By, Jordan Stephen
Hillary Clinton, once burdened with a profusion of image and credibility problems, has had a great many weights lifted off her shoulders this month. The Democratic presidential front-runner has defended her record at the State Department, dodged a serious challenge from Vice President Joe Biden and saw two of her primary opponents leave the race.
Clintonland is rejoicing.
The former Secretary of State has successfully deflected nearly every blow her campaign and character have been dealt since she announced her intentions to run for the White House. The House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing is the latest critical exercise Clinton has endured, and it left her largely unscathed. Some even praised her performance as formidable and a victory for her campaign .
"This week helped her solidify the nomination," Eric Wolfert, the Roosevelt Institute's Emerging Fellow on Energy and the Environment, told GVH Live. "Even some of the conservatives are giving her high marks."
For 11 hours, Clinton sustained a composed demeanor while Republicans on the panel volleyed attack after attack at the presidential candidate.
At one point, panel-member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., decried the investigation as an "abusive effort" to damage Clinton's reputation and called for "Republicans to end this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition."
The hearing was stained earlier in the month when Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested that the goal of the inquiry was to damage her support among voters in the presidential race.
At the end of the exhaustive questioning session, Clinton left the committee visibly tired, but she had weathered the worst of the Benghazi controversy.
Clinton's testimony comes on the heels of Joe Biden's announcement that he will not be running for president in 2016. No one benefits more from Biden's decision than Hillary.
Biden occupies political space to the left of Clinton, but to the right of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who's polling second behind Clinton. Sanders' supporters are drawn to the self-proclaimed socialist because of his hardline progressive ideals and were likely to abandon him if the Vice President joined the race.
Clinton, on the other hand, was expected to take a serious blow if Biden entered the contest.
The opposite has happened.
Biden's absence has already sent his base flocking to the Clinton banner.
A poll released Friday by Quinnipiac University shows Clinton with a widening lead in early-voting Iowa. With Biden nowhere near the ticket, Clinton, who was floating in the mid-40s in September, now has support from 51 percent of potential voters. Sanders maintains second place around 40 percent.
Wolfert says Clinton's efforts to fill the ideological gap is paying off.
"She's starting to take much stronger positions on progressive issues like criminal justice," he said. "She's already capturing more progressive millennial voters."
But two golden eggs are not enough for the former First Lady.
After a disagreement over who won the first Democratic primary debate earlier in the month, new polls suggest that Clinton walked away with a solid victory. While Sanders' delivery galvanized his active online base, he may have lost supporters by the frontrunner in the wake of her charismatic performance.
One survey from Emerson College suggested that Clinton successfully swayed 15 percent of voters who did not support her as the nominee prior to the debate.
Earlier in the week, low-polling primary candidates former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee declared their withdrawal from the race, further tightening Clinton's reigns over the primary field.
Not every hurdle has been removed from the track, however.
The FBI continues to investigate Clinton's use of a private email server while in the State Department to determine whether classified information was at risk. A drawn out investigation could muddle Clinton's efforts to get away from her reputation as untrustworthy.
"What Sanders said in the debate is absolutely true: people are tired of hearing about the emails," he said. "When it comes down to it, most people will vote on policy issues. Any moderate kerfuffles will be forgotten 12 months from now."
Present and future mudslinging aside, all signs point to Clinton's clean acceptance of the nomination. It is in the general election that things might get dirty.