By Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg News (TNS)
NEW YORK — During her eight years as a senator, Hillary Clinton was part of a small but growing club of Democratic women.
They gathered for monthly off-the-record dinners, shared a tiny ladies’ room just off the Senate floor and looked out for each other. Clinton helped out in her own way, raising their collective profile and hitting the campaign trail for many of them.
On Monday, 13 of them came together at a Capitol Hill hotel to return the favor for Clinton, each making her case for the Democratic presidential front-runner in her own way before a crowd of 1,000 that gave between $250 and $2,700 to the campaign to attend.
“It would take something extraordinary to get all 13 of us here at one time,” said California Sen. Barbara Boxer. “That something extraordinary is Hillary Clinton.”
Only one person could have “gotten so many of my colleagues together and that is Hillary Clinton,” echoed Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono.
Before Clinton took the stage, the senators spoke in ascending order of seniority, from North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp to Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski. It was the first time the Clinton campaign has opened a fundraiser to all press, a decision that reflected its symbolic importance to a team that is not shying away from talking up the historic nature of her candidacy after a more reluctant handling of Clinton’s gender during her 2008 campaign.
“If you’re ready for me, I’m ready for you,” Clinton said after crossing the stage and sharing a hug or a handshake with each senator.
But one Senate Democratic woman was missing: Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, who has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate, though she did sign a 2013 letter urging Clinton to run.
Speaking to reporters after the event, Mikulski laughed off Warren’s absence, suggesting that “maybe she has a cold.”
Warren’s team was mum, but she said in September that she would likely endorse a candidate while the primaries are still ongoing. In the meantime, she’s using her voice — and fiercely loyal following — to pull the Democratic candidates, particularly Clinton, left on a range of economic issues including Wall Street regulation and student debt.
But as Warren’s colleagues spoke, she was out of sight and out of mind.
“We need to be there for her every day and in every way,” said Mikulski, the first Democratic woman to be elected to the Senate in her own right. “I will be working my earrings off to elect Hillary.”
While the women speaking Monday were unanimous in their support for Clinton, many other Democrats are undecided or backing other candidates. Women made up about 60 percent of Clinton’s donors during her first two quarters of fundraising. That means that roughly 240,000 women have given to her, but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign says that it has drawn more than 300,000 female donors, according to a report last week in the Washington Post.
For all the talk about substance, symbolism matters, too, argued Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin. “I want every young woman, every young girl, to be able to look at the president of the United States and see someone who looks a little bit like herself,” she said.
To hammer home that point, the Clinton campaign unveiled a video titled “44 boys is too many!” featuring girls reading their words of support for Clinton.
“If you would like help with your campaign, I’m available,” one girl offered. “And I would work for candy.”
©2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (C) raises her arms while joining 13 female senators for a “Women for Hillary” endorsement event and fundraiser in Washington November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts