FALLS CHURCH, Va. - In her first explicitly political event in more than four years, Hillary Clinton today officially endorsed long-time friend and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia to an enthusiastic crowd of his and her supporters.
"I've been out of politics for a few years now," Clinton said to laughter and applause at the Women for Terry McAuliffe event. "I've had a chance to think a lot about what makes our country so great - what kind of leadership is required to keep it great."
"Yours!" called out someone from the crowd to cheers.
As many people at the State Theater in Northern Virginia today wore "Hillary" pins or "Ready for Hillary" buttons as wore McAuliffe campaign buttons, as Clinton's supporters looked for signs that she was ready to jump back into the political fray.
And jump back in she did.
Clinton denounced what she called the "scorched earth" politics of the government shutdown where "ideology trumps everything else."
"Recently in Washington unfortunately we've seen examples of the wrong kind of leadership," Clinton said. "When politicians chose scorched earth over common ground, when they operate in what I call the 'evidence-free zone,' ideology trumping everything else. "
"That is not the kind of leadership we need in Virginia and America today," she added.
McAuliffe is a long time Clinton associate who was chairman of former President Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign and Hillary Clinton's failed 2008 presidential campaign. McAuliffe was also a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
He introduced Clinton as a "an inspiration to men and women all across Virginia and all across the globe," to chants of "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary" from the audience.
In her remarks Clinton vouched for McAuliffe as a longtime friend and family man.
"He cares deeply about not only what happens to his own family and friends but to everyone," Clinton said. "He has the biggest heart and the most open mind of everyone who you will ever meet."
Both Clintons have been working feverishly to raise money for McAuliffe's race, which is seen by both parties as a political bellwether.
She acknowledged that McAuliffe's race against tea party-backed Republican State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has implications for whoever runs for president in 2016 because Virginia is a coveted battleground for both parities.
"I don't have to tell you, I hope, that the whole country is watching this election." Clinton said. "Watching to see whether the voters of Virginia lead the way of turning from divisive politics, getting back to common sense and common ground."
A recent NBC News-Marist poll shows McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by eight points. The election will be held on Nov. 5.
Since leaving her post as Secretary of State, Clinton has busily picked up awards, speaking events and built her portfolio within the newly renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton foundation.
But she has studiously avoided engaging in political fights - until now.
Earlier this week, Clinton hosted a fundraiser for McAuliffe in New York and she will host another fundraising event for McAuliffe after today's rally.
Next week, Clinton will raise more money from wealthy Hollywood types in at the end of the month.
Conventional wisdom has been that the 16-day government shutdown, which polls indicate many voters blame the Republican party for, has hurt Cuccinelli in recent days.
Yet Cuccinelli has sought to turn the attention on the rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act's health exchanges, which have experienced significant technical problems since the launch on Oct. 1.
In the Republican Weekly Address today, Cuccinelli said "Obamacare was fundamentally broken even before it started."
"Let me be plain, the law that carries the president's name is the hallmark of a reckless federal government that has lost its way," he added.
A recent Washington Post/Abt-SRBI poll show McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli among women by 24 points.
McAuliffe pledged today that if he is elected governor, he will be a "brick wall" against efforts to roll back reproductive rights for women.
"Let me be crystal clear, I trust women to make their own decisions about their own personal health care," McAuliffe said.